“In the past, we have advocated increases in council tax as the least painful way to try to minimise the damage to essential services to the most vulnerable residents. However this year we acknowledge that the freeze grant equivalent to a 1% increase in council tax does not have a financial cliff at the end of the year. Therefore we have reluctantly decided that the benefits of the measures in our amendment compensate for the disadvantages of not increasing the tax base and will not increase the burden on those on low incomes.
You have heard our reservations about the alternative proposals from the Tories and Lib Dems, the reality is that none of the other major parties nationally are proposing anything better than the Coalition in terms of the decimation of local services over the next five years. This is an austerity budget and in many ways whatever we do is palliative care for a sick patient, with no Labour commitment nationally to do anything differently. We readily accept that our opposition to privatisation and outsourcing in previous years has fallen on deaf ears but there are a few aspects of the Labour budget (P184) which we welcome as priorities from previous year’s Green amendments to be funded from the New Homes Bonus – voluntary sector capacity building, mental health, energy efficiency.
Some of our key proposals are identical to those of the other opposition groups – Protecting the vital service to young people based at the Castlegate Centre, vital funding for front line work in Childrens Centres that show that young people and family life are a priority and our pledge to retain the funding for apprenticeships. City of York council must continue to lead the way in showing to other employers that it values decent training and employment for our young people and will maintain a flow of enterprising skilled staff for our future public services.
We propose to reinstate £50,000 front line Libraries funding – Green councillors have consistently opposed the process of imposing funding cuts at the same time as removing the service from direct democratic control.
We have also identified a clear pledge for up to 5 years funding for Yearsley Pool to facilitate the transition to a self financing future for this unique historic and healthy living facility.
Increased pressures on planning and conservation staff with the current scale of development mean we feel it is vital to retain in house expertise to critically evaluate proposals and help ensure that new developments respect our unique heritage.
Road safety is another concern, as we seek to ensure that all school crossing patrols are in place (where the staff can be recruited) so as to encourage active travel, walking and cycling and scooting to school. We are also concerned at the proposed raiding or LSTF funds for sustainable travel in order to continue the road safety partnership – cycle training and road safety in schools is an essential service that needs to be reviewed, revived and relaunched (prior to the end of the current LSTF funding this time next year) so we have put a small amount back in to allow some focus on such a review.
Finally we acknowledge that the abandonment of the Lendal Bridge trial has left a legacy of political animosity towards green transport measures, including the attempt to gain cross party engagement through the Congestion Commission (even though we have some reservations and supported the call in for the cabinet to reconsider the issue next week)
As a way of offering more carrot than stick, we are putting forward a proposal that already operates in Huddersfield and Bradford, that is a free shuttle bus around the city centre which we propose should be trialled for at least 6 months. The cost is on a par with the congestion commission, and significantly less than the £250k spent in the past year to fund the free city centre parking initiative. Some of the cost of this would be raised from small increases in car parking charges for those without Minster badges, an increase that is on a par with the increase in bus fares over the past 12 months. Air quality is a key health issue and it is no coincidence that the decline in this between 2006 – 2012 took place as bus fares rose while parking charges were largely static. We have also proposed a change so that Minster badges will entitle residents to free parking on a Friday and Saturday evening from 5pm instead of 6pm.
We believe that these measures will go some way to limiting the impact of the drastic cuts which are being forced on this and other councils for ideological reasons by central government and urge you to support our amendment.”