- Most severe Lib Dem-Tory cuts to be reversed in adult social care and children’s services
- A focus on York’s housing crisis and provision of affordable homes
- Drive to improve opportunities for poorer children and close growing gap in school achievement
- Poor air quality to be tackled through Park and Ride low-emissions investment
- Focus on reversing falling wage levels through special Economic Fund
The reversal of Lib Dem and Tory cuts that target some of the city’s most vulnerable adults and children will be the focus for the main opposition Labour Group’s alternative budget when council meets this week (23rd).
Labour say the ruling Coalition has made no attempt to stem the tide of cuts to those in greatest need – despite having the ability to do so - ensuring that their Lib Dem/Tory budget has little focus on services that support people.
Labour Group Leader, Councillor Janet Looker will propose Labour’s alternative budget. She says:
‘While Liberal Democrats and Tories are agreeing to £3m in cuts to vital frontline services to vulnerable, mainly elderly, adults over two years, Labour is reversing many of the most punishing cuts that are perfectly avoidable.
‘Standing up for York means protecting some of those services that support people who without them would really struggle. So we’d reverse many of the cruellest and unnecessary cuts in order to protect the most vulnerable people, such as older residents, disabled children and carers.
Examples of this approach include the reversal of cuts to specialist, short break or ‘respite care’ provided to help disabled children and their families.
We’d also call time on proposals to cut funding for school transport for those with special educational needs, including disabled children, and reject cuts that are proposed to services in the city for looked after children who have been through a great deal such as those who are adopted or in foster care.’
‘Our budget proposals are not simply a series of reversals to cuts. We’re also looking beyond the limited ambitions of the Tory/Lib Dem administration in an attempt to tackle some of the big challenges we face in York.
Among these big challenges, it’s essential that we ensure that York is a city of opportunity for all, especially our children. This means we must close the ‘attainment gap’ in York schools which sees children from poorer families perform far worse than their classmates (the gap is nearly 3 times the national average and grew by 8% last year). Our budget proposals would make available the resources for us to prioritise this work.’
On housing, Labour would invest in a developing the business case for a potential ‘housing development company’, which would put the council in a much better position to provide a better mix of quality affordable housing for people struggling to rent or buy homes in York in a city where the average home is more than nine times the average wage.
Such a plan was initiated under Labour before the last election and abandoned when the Lib Dem-Tory Coalition came to power. It’s an idea that is already working in other parts of the country and which could provide a solution to many of the problems in York’s housing market, including the shortage of affordable housing and the challenge of attracting enough ‘key workers’ such as nurses and care workers to York, with many put off by the high cost of living.
Coun. Looker says:
‘The housing crisis hitting York is ignored by the Coalition so we want to make an important statement about how we think it could be tackled. We want to look at other affordable homes initiatives that could be delivered under a housing development company model. We have to do something and this investment would show how we would offer hope to those struggling to afford to rent or buy a home in York.’
On York’s poor air quality, the Labour plans would invest in upgrading the Park and Ride fleet with the aim of making at least half the fleet ultra low emission.
Councillor Looker said ‘This is one area where the council can play a major part in improving air quality, and reducing the health impact of dangerous diesel emissions in the city centre that is leading to premature deaths. We will put our money where our mouth is in making York a green city to live and work in, and to visit.
In response to recent concerns over the cost of living in York, Councillor Looker added ‘Wages in York have fallen significantly over the past three years, down £73 per month while UK wages have risen £100 a month in the same period. Combined with the rising cost of housing, food and fuel it means many people in York are really struggling.
‘We have established a £150,000 fund that will work with partners in York to drive growth and support economic development. This stimulus would be the first step toward closing the wages gap between York and the UK, and ensuring we have an economic plan that doesn’t just rely on York Central, a scheme which may not be delivered for many years to come.
Given the squeeze on people’s wages and the rising cost of living, we would also look at ways to support hard pressed residents.
‘This would include freezing the cost of resident parking permits to prevent the Coalition profiting from what should be a basic right to residents who live in respark areas.
Proposals put forward by Labour would also halve the cost of removing bulky waste to make it far easier for people to get rid of this waste and to help reduce the problem of fly-tipping, which can blight the wonderful city we live in.
Coun. Neil Barnes, Labour’s finance spokesperson, said:
‘We were able to identify very early on that the Tory/Lib Dem proposed budget had some fundamental flaws where key service users were almost entirely forgotten about or ignored. Labour felt this was a defining issue in this budget, whether we took the easy option of the Coalition in punishing the most needy, or do the right thing and immediately seek to stand up for York residents and ensure that this remains a city of opportunity for all of us.
‘The Coalition seem to have ignored their own consultation which indicated that York residents would pay a small extra amount in their council tax rather than see their vulnerable family members targeted for cuts.
The Labour party received confirmation from officers this week that the budget amendment it has put forward is correctly costed and would represent a ‘balanced’ budget.
The proposals would result in an extra 30p per week for a Band D property (above those put forward by the Tory/Lib Dem coalition). According to the Council’s own consultation, many in York feel this is a price the public may be willing to pay for the protection of crucial services amid a national crisis in health and social care.
The Labour group has called upon residents to look online (#FightYorkCuts) at further details of its proposals and, if supportive, to email Council Leader David Carr and his Deputy Keith Aspden to call on them to do more to protect services.