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York Labour submits budget amendment

Labour’s amendment to the Tory-led Coalition budget has been confirmed and will be debated by councillors at this Thursday’s budget-setting meeting.
Labour’s three priorities – promoting lifelong health and wellbeing, protecting  frontline services, and improving our communities and the places where we live – have guided their process in determining which Coalition cuts are reversed and where investment is made.
Labour’s budget amendment is based on setting a council tax increase 0.99% above the Conservative-Liberal Democrat Coalition’s proposed budget.   This rate is consistent with the majority of councils nationally believed to be set to agree 3.99% increases, and reflects York’s public consultation result which showed a majority in favour of a council tax increase in order to protect key services.
The proposed extra 0.99% raises a further £720,000 in income which can be used positively for the benefit of residents.
Therefore the Labour budget involves no extra borrowing, and equates to an extra 20p per week, over and above the Tory-led Coalition’s budget, in council tax for a Band C property (the band which contains the most properties in York, closely followed by Band B, for which the increase would be 18p per week).
Labour’s finance and performance spokesperson, Coun. Neil Barnes, explains how Labour’s budget amendment will benefit residents:
“Our previous announcements have shown how we would protect local bus services, continue to maintain the city’s parks and ensure steps are taken to reduce the risk of surface water flooding.  They have also outlined how we will protect those in council-run care homes from expensive fee hikes, double the amount invested in supporting those experiencing mental health problems and put £200k into public health to offset the impact of Government cuts.
“Further measures within our budget will protect the adult learning budget, and ensure increases in ResPark charges do not apply to a household’s first car”.
Labour has committed £150k each to a Green Space Fund for parks and open spaces, and to invest in shopping streets in communities outside the city centre, from a transitional grant the council will receive for two years only.
“The ruling Coalition have made a lot of noise but provided little in the way of hard evidence to show that they have a vision for the city” adds Coun. Barnes. “This is hugely disappointing for what is supposed to be their first major defining budget. In contrast, each of Labour's proposed investments signals a strong commitment from Labour to our communities and an acknowledgment that some help is required to help boost footfall and support our local businesses”.
“We are keen to encourage businesses to generate their own ideas to boost the numbers shopping locally, but the council can also play its part.  And improving the standard of our parks is a sensible decision as we seek more volunteer involvement in the future”.
Labour’s budget also includes money to support council services which are likely to be hit harder as a result of the introduction of Universal Credit.  
Savings in children’s early intervention services and adult services for those with learning disabilities will be softened by transitional funding that will ease the process of making millions in savings over the next three years.
Labour Group Leader, Coun. Janet Looker said:
“I’m pleased with the budget we have produced, which reflects residents’ priorities and is realistic about the financial challenges the council faces in the coming years.  When you are losing millions of pounds, you cannot just pull the rug away in some service areas, you have to transition carefully so as not to impact residents too much.  
“This is a major difference in our approach to that from the Coalition, as well as in our commitment to people and the frontline services they value. Sound bites are easy, the harder route is to take sensible budget decisions such as a small council tax rise to offset the impact of Government cuts."
“Of course we would want to go further in protecting such services, but the huge reductions in Government funding make this impossible”.

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