Thank you Lord Mayor.
As in previous years the Conservative Group amendment is a statement of intent and how our focus is different to other groups rather than a reworking of every line. We remain mindful that where the Liberal Democrats and their Green puppets have every council employee at their disposal for a year we have a short period to see certain papers that this supposedly open administration will let us see. There is also little point taking up vast staff time for an amendment that I would be surprised to see passed given the Conservative Group is unique in this chamber in believing that residents can spend their money better than the council and that councillors should serve residents rather than savour large allowances and expenses.
Overall our amendment shows we believe Council Tax is too high and at the same time as limiting rises we would deliver more on the frontline as we run things more efficiently and cut waste and also the cost of politics. Our amendment would also not see anyone lose their job or involve redundancy costs as we believe all roles ceasing would easily see the occupants redeployed in the natural churn of staff turnover.
I will now go through some of the highlights of our amendment.
First of all we would cut the cost of politics with the cutting of councillor allowances to the 2015 agreed level of inflation linked rises rather than the Lib Dem and Green hike of 2019 and we would reduce by two the number of Executive Members and cut one chair allowance. This will please many in Strensall, Earswick and Stockton on Forest and especially my ward colleague Cllr Fisher who was elected have stressed he would oppose any increase in councillor allowances but was unfortunately unable to do so at the 2019 vote due to an unexpected record breakingly long toilet break.
We would cut the spend on communications including better use of the Our City magazine which delivers very little value for its cost. We would also not continue with Purple Flag, something that typifies a virtue signalling motion which merely leaves the city with costs to pay without any evidence that it boosts city visits. We have also again identified savings which can be done without downside – indeed our £25,000 cut to the print budget is a way to focus minds, save money and save damage to the planet.
In terms of new spend we repeat our call for a new fund to improve rural transport issues, these are people who are in the main neglected by Cllr D’Agorne whose only role is to close roads to make their journeys into the city more difficult. Our pothole fund would help all communities by providing funds for potholes which are a real issue but do not fall under the council’s criteria for sorting out.
We are increasingly concerned about the poor state of the city. As the most basic of levels we are adding in resource for two new street cleaning officers, one specifically for the city centre and one with a broader remit but to include out of town shopping areas like Acomb and Haxby in particular.
At a higher level we are investing in new benches to address the lack of seating and often its poor standard across the city, adding in more bike racks and we are also committing to refresh public toilets which are in an increasingly poor state.
On another level we have significant doubts about the ability of Make it York to deliver and failings of direction given in the SLA and overweight from the Lib Dem administration, however there is nothing we can do in the essentially one year budget on this.
Our amendment is, as I say, about a different focus to the administration. Given resource limiting factors and more crucially that we would not be starting from here we are limited in the specific budget lines we can change. However our amendment shows the better value a Conservative council would offer and the different choices we would make.
I therefore formally propose our budget amendment.