York's Liberal Democrats have decried the first visible act of the new Labour administration of City of York Council - a between 45% and 81% cut to local funding for small scale community projects.
Overall, for every £10 available under the Lib Dems for community projects, Labour are providing just £3.
This funding is used to support locally set priorities, whether that is help to address the cost of living crisis, fix potholes and poor road and pavement surfaces, tackle adult loneliness, holiday hunger or youth engagement schemes. Over the last four years, it has devolved more than £3 million directly to the projects that local communities see improving their areas.
Councillor Andrew Hollyer, the Liberal Democrats' Spokesperson for York Outer said: "This cut is simply devasting for our communities.
"Labour's excuses just doesn't hold up, they may argue that funding will be moved to better tackle the cost of living crisis, but, in my own area our funding has recently been used to support our local food share project which provides residents, from across the city, with access to food and essentials and it has been used to provide schemes to tackle children going hungry during the school holidays.
"Ward funding isn't a substitute for the incredible work of the volunteers, but it does allow us to help get initiatives like the food share project off the ground, and support them when they need a little assistance.
"Without ward funding I worry about how many other projects, like this, that could have supported their communities though the current cost of living crisis will just never get the little bit of help they need to get going or expand."
Despite claims that Labour wish to focus on York's more deprived areas, they fare little better, with a 55% cut in Westfield Ward. Indeed, Hull Road ward, one of the most deprived areas of the city, suffers a 75% cut - the same as Copmanthorpe, one of the wealthiest.
Westfield Ward Councillor Andrew Waller said: "Labour is trying to draw into the centre of the council bureaucracy the funding decisions that should be made locally. It will become harder to show the positive effects that this has in local areas for the most cost-effective impact.”
Hull Road ward Lib Dem campaigner Andrew Mortimer has expressed dismay at the fact that his area is amongst the biggest losers: “The Hull Road ward has some of the city’s most deprived communities, so it is astonishing to see that under Labour’s new formula, we are much worse off. Only a couple of months ago Labour boasted about the amount of money spent on projects in Hull Road Ward. How quickly they seem to have gone back on their promise of "more of the same" if people voted for them.
“At the council meeting on 20th July when Labour’s budget was discussed, Lib Dem councillors showed Labour how they could avoid cutting ward budgets, by saving over £150,000 on planned staff recruitment and better use of reserves, however they chose to ignore these suggestions and plow on regardless."
Further analysis by York's Liberal Democrats shows that not only are these cuts damaging to local communities during a cost of living crisis, but the implementation of the cuts has been badly botched. Errors in the funding formula have made the entire system unworkable and serious flaws in the decision-making process mean that the 'behind closed doors decision' was arguably in breach of the council’s own rules.
Councillor Andrew Hollyer said: "These rushed changes to the ward funding system made by Labour are deeply flawed and should be scrapped. They demonstrate just why 'behind closed doors' decisions with no scrutiny lead to poor outcomes for residents.
"We are calling for a return to the Liberal Democrat plans agreed in February 2023. Not only would this mean an additional £600,000 each year available to support our local communities and their priorities, but this deeply unfair system developed by Labour - under which even the most deprived wards such as Westfield lose out - would be righted.
"If Labour insist on cutting the ward funding budget they should develop those plans in public with an appropriate level of scrutiny, with implementation at the next budget council meeting next year."
York's Liberal Democrats launched a petition arguing that these cuts are damaging to local communities during a cost of living crisis, that the implementation of the cuts has been badly botched and that the cuts should be scrapped. The petition is available to sign online at Give us our money back! (typeform.com)