Council’s Executive has approved budget proposals for the 2021-22 financial year, which will now be debated at the first virtual Budget Council on the 25th of February. The new budget proposes a plan to stabilise Council’s financial position and outline priority investment for frontline services, social care and mental health, alongside ongoing support for businesses and residents impacted by the pandemic.
Consecutive years of significant decline in funding from central government is now compounded by the challenges brought about by the pandemic, leaving City of York Council facing a significant budget gap of over £15 million next year. Despite many reassurances and pledges, the Government has ultimately failed to live up to its promise of supporting local councils. Instead, they have passed on a ‘Tax bombshell’ to local communities, demanding councils (especially those that are delivering vital social care services) cover the cost of the pandemic through regressive and outdated council taxation.
To maintain financial stability in the absence of sufficient Government funding, the Council is proposing to deliver savings and efficiencies totalling £7.9 million, in order to ensure that crucial council services can be maintained in the difficult year ahead. Recognising the current economic challenges and support needed for local residents, budget proposals set out an increase in total spending by £2.6 million on adult social care and support for children and young people, whilst strategically investing additional resources to protect frontline services and help accelerate the city’s economic recovery.
To continue the work done throughout the pandemic to support local residents and businesses, the 2021/22 budget proposes a £3.5 million Covid Recovery Fund. Recognising that the challenges of Coronavirus will continue well into 2021, this fund will include support for local communities, residents on low incomes, local businesses, mental health support providers, sustainable travel incentives, and more. Detailed list of proposals included in the Covid Recovery Fund can be found here.
The budget proposals also see the Council continue its transformational £600m capital investment programme to accelerate the city’s economic recovery. The Council’s Capital Programme will include investment to progress key regeneration projects, improve the city’s road network and infrastructure, continue efforts to tackle the climate emergency, accelerate the delivery of flood defences, deliver affordable housing across the city and accelerate York’s economic recovery.
Councillor Keith Aspden, Liberal Democrat Leader of the Council, commented:
“The impact of the pandemic compounded by the Government’s broken promises and decades of underfunding has meant that, like many other local authorities, in particular those with social care responsibilities, we are left facing tough decisions in our upcoming budget.
“Our proposals recognise the need to balance the Council’s books in the face of unprecedented challenges, to ensure we can continue providing crucial services which are needed now more than ever. These proposed savings and efficiencies will enable us to bolster spending on adult social care and increase support for children and young people, as we continue to see demand for services increase.
“In order to continue providing support to residents and businesses, we have also proposed the creation of a new Covid Recovery Fund for the city, including targeted and comprehensive support to those on the lowest incomes, strengthening mental health support locally, as well as incentives and direct support to local businesses who continue to face major challenges.
“With the challenges of the Coronavirus pandemic expected to last well into next year, these proposals would see us continue delivering on our resident’s priorities - investing in social care, protecting frontline services and accelerating a sustainable and inclusive recovery.”
For a summary of our priorities in the 2021-22 Council Budget, please click here