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Labour Group's reponse to the Coalition budget

The council’s Conservative-Lib Dem Coalition budget for the forthcoming year will ensure children and adult services bear the brunt of the cuts.

Of the £5m of cuts to be agreed, around £3m will come from reducing or removing children’s, adults and public health services.

Labour Group Leader Councillor Janet Looker responded to the Coalition's proposed budget saying:

"All budgets that come forward from this Tory-Lib Dem Coalition appear to prioritise removing services to vulnerable children and adults, which of course is something to which Labour councillors are vehemently opposed. The move towards removing any significant services supporting these people continues, with day services for vulnerable adults taking a major hit in this latest budget. It’s something we’re particularly uncomfortable with and will consider reversing in our budget amendment. It’s foolhardy to think the voluntary sector can endlessly pick up all of these important services and try to run them on a shoestring."

The chaos that has come to characterise the current Coalition administration led to a deal only being struck at the eleventh hour between the two parties on council tax, with Liberal Democrats finally agreeing to support their Tory colleagues in cutting valued public services earlier this week.

Councillor Looker also said there was a lack of honesty in what was happening with the budget, with new spending in adult social care highlighted, whilst cuts well in excess of £1m in the same area were not reported.

Other cuts will see budgets in the Healthy Child Service and Children’s Early Intervention and Prevention areas reduced, at a time when admissions at A&E for self harm in York’s young people are above the national average.  As well as York school pupils’ education being the lowest funded nationally, York is the also one of the lowest funded areas for mental health services nationally and the lowest in the Yorkshire and Humber region.

Overall, York has the second lowest spending per head of any unitary council in the country.

Labour’s finance spokesperson Councillor Neil Barnes said the poor funding position for York from the Government is being compounded by the Tory-Lib Dem approach to the budget where it prioritised cuts over protecting services. He said:

"Some of the logic in this budget is difficult to follow. In the consultation we have a minority preferring ‘more efficiency over increased council tax and fewer services’, yet we don’t hear what the majority response has been.

"We see low numbers of people wishing to see ward committee funding protected and yet this doesn’t translate into what we see in front of us in the Coalition budget.  It begs the question, why consult if you’re going to simply ignore what people tell you?

"Longer term, the race to the bottom amongst Tories and Lib Dems on council tax means the public are short-changed on the services they receive.  This does have an impact with York performing amongst the worst in the region in some services.  That’s nothing to be proud about and runs counter to the positive aspects of living in a wonderful city like York.  It appears to be rare moment of the Tories getting their way in the Coalition, which is always going to be bad news for the public."

Labour will be developing an alternative budget following publication of the Coalition budget this week, before tabling it at Budget Council on 22 February.

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