York council tax to rise by 3% while city spending is cut by £6.5 million

Fancy this as your workplace? Photograph: Richard McDougall
3 Feb 2016 @ 5.47 pm
| News, Politics

York council tax bills are to jump by 3% this financial year.

But even with this increase City of York Council will still have to make cuts amounting to £6.5 million.

The 2016/17 budget being put to the council’s executive meeting on Thursday, February 11, will see a 1% rise in normal council tax, plus a further 2% increase to fund adult social care.

That is the maximum allowed by central Government under the social care precept.

The council’s budget is shrinking by 5.5% to £117.9 million. But city leaders point out that York has the 13th lowest band D council tax and the second lowest spend per head of population of any unitary council in England.

Winners and losers

Winners

Vulnerable children
Children’s social care budget grows by £1.9m

Adult social care
Two per cent of the council tax rise will be devoted to adult health care, raising another £1.5m. Of this £338K will go to Haisthorpe House residential home for people with mental health needs, rated inadequate by watchdog last year

Street services
£234K to fund officers to enforce laws around dog fouling, street drinking, licensing infringement, noise enforcement, fly-tipping and graffiti

Social housing tenants
Average rent decrease of 1% as required by law

Mental health services
An additional £100K to be invested

Losers

Council tax payers
Have to pay 3% more, despite inflation in December being 0.2%

The council
Funding from central government via the ‘settlement funding assessment’ is cut by £8m, with another £900K gone from health and education grants

Children’s services and education
This council directorate must find £1.315m in savings

Communities and neighbourhoods
Directorate loses £1.518m from its budget, with parks and gardeners seeing a £72K cut

Public transport
Bus subsidies will be cut by £350K in two years. Evening and weekend services will be “rationalised”

Council tenants
Average rents to increase by 0.9% for those which aren’t defined as ‘social housing rents’

Other one-off investments include:

  • £350k to fund completion of the Local Plan
  • £60k to fund a strategic flood risk assessment

Where the cuts will fall

This table sets out where each of the council’s directorates will find the money to meet £6.2 million in savings.

  2016/17
Savings £’000
– Children’s Services, Education and Skills -1,315
– City and Environmental Services -559
– Communities and Neighbourhoods -1,518
– Customer and Business Support Services -1,406
– Adult Social Care -1,135
– Office of the Chief Executive -300
– Corporate -250
Total Savings Changes -6,483

What they say

Council leader Chris Steward

cllr-chris-stewardWe have been clear that we wish to protect the most vulnerable and focus on frontline services.

We have therefore decided to take the adult social care precept as in this directorate we want to ensure people get well looked after.

On council tax generally, whilst the majority of councils are raising tax by the maximum allowable we have found ways to get best value for residents so we can keep the increase lower than most of our peers.

Deputy council leader Cllr Keith Aspden

dep-york-council-leader-keith-aspden“We are focusing resources on frontline services such as road repairs, street lighting, tackling fly-tipping and graffiti as well as plans to make York the Greenest City in the North.

“We are also investing in community mental health facilities and supporting local businesses after the floods by freezing car park charges across the city.

“We have listened to residents and whilst making significant savings we are ensuring the funding is in place for vulnerable children, adult social care and crucial street-level services.”

Cllr Neil Barnes, Labour finance spokesman

york-labour-cllr-neil-barnesIt is clear the Coalition has benefited through Labour’s sensible management of the council’s finances until last year, evidenced in the relatively low level of savings it is having to make in comparison.

Yet even with that, public parks have been targeted through significant cuts to grounds maintenance, while public bus services face big changes as a big chunk of subsidy is removed, leaving evening and other services vulnerable to being cut. These are frontline services.

Such significant savings in the areas of children and adult social services, to nursing care, residential and respite care and to looked after children will require further scrutiny to ensure this budget isn’t simply an attack on those least able to protect those services they benefit from and rely on.

And after failing to meet the need for council tax support, the Coalition has also made a big cut to the York Financial Assistance scheme for those in desperate need.