Today has seen the publication of papers for the City of York Council budget proposals. It is the first time the Conservatives have led on a budget in York for nearly 30 years and the first time since York became a unitary authority.
The new administration has committed to focus on frontline services and also protecting the most vulnerable, whilst also being an administration that will listen to and engage with residents.
There are tough choices ahead but so that the change that is needed can be delivered the budget sets out as much planning as possible for the next four years, although council can legally only set a one year budget. The budget will ensure investment in the completion of the Local Plan, further investment in roads and focus on mental health. It is also notable for what is not included for example we will not be increasing car parking charges and we will not charge for the first green bin, where Labour was planning to.
Whilst most councils are increasing council tax by the maximum allowable, even with the legacy of Labour’s wasteful spending and many of their unmet transformation projects as well as additional provision for the floods, the Conservatives are increasing council tax by 1%, as opposed to the 2% allowed. The government is no longer offering a freeze grant, which the Local Election manifesto said we would always look to take, so there is less financial imperative to freeze but the budget is still focused on keeping council tax as low as possible.
The government has also said authorities can take 2% towards the adult social care bill. Given the importance of looking after the most vulnerable and failures to achieve required savings by Labour, plus failures like £300,000 wasted on the aborted Elderly People’s Homes project; the administration has decided to take this.
Council leader Chris Steward said ‘this budget sets our a clear vision for what the council should be doing, it is about frontline services like bin collection, road repairs and also looking after the most vulnerable. We are also committed to engaging with residents and this budget shows a number of ways we have listened and will continue to do so as residents help shape change in the city’.