COUNCIL tax will rise by 1.9 per cent, parks will be left unlocked and parking charges will increase under budget plans unveiled by York’s city leaders.
City of York Council yesterday revealed proposals to save £20 million over the next two years, including 242 jobs facing the axe and funding for streetlights and road-sweeping being cut.
The Labour cabinet plans to reject a Government grant to freeze council tax next year, saying it would mean the council having to save a further £1.3 million by 2015. It said the rise - the second in a row for York, following last year's 2.9 per cent increase - would equate to 38p a week for the average York resident and provide an extra £1.5 million in 2013/14 towards adult social care, which will receive an extra £6 million over two years.
If the proposals are passed at a full council meeting this month, fees for car parks will rise by 20p for residents and 10p for non-residents in April. Parks will not be locked and weekend working will stop to save £122,000.
One street-cleaning machine will be axed in a £48,000 cost-cutting move and the streetlighting budget will be cut by £60,000.
The council has pledged extra investment of £48.4 million over five years for 18 schemes, including helping elderly and disabled people to continue to live at home, an additional £500,000 for telecare health systems, £6 million for new council houses and £1.28 million to reduce overcrowding in council properties through loft conversions and extensions.
More alleygates will be installed, funding will be provided for repairs to roads, riverbanks and the Bar Walls and £1 million over five years devoted to highway drainage.
Council leader James Alexander said library, swimming pool and children’s centre closures had been avoided, but these and other options had been considered.
Coun Alexander said: “Every year, it becomes more and more difficult to save services put in jeopardy by the Government’s cuts programme.
“Local government has been targeted more than other parts of the public sector, so we need to be responsive to public priorities at a time when some services simply cannot continue. Our proposals show we are being responsive and will protect the most vulnerable, through the planned council tax increase being dedicated solely to investment in adult social care, while continuing to bring jobs and investment from the private sector to York.”
Conservative leader Ian Gillies said rising council tax would “hit hardworking families”, while increased parking charges showed Labour had made “empty promises” of supporting city-centre businesses.
Coun Gillies said: “Good local government is all about choices, and rather than channel what discretionary funding is available into schemes for a small minority, we believe the large majority deserve support in the form of decent services. Which would residents rather have – universal 20mph speed limits or potholes filled?”
Liberal Democrat leader Carol Runciman said the council tax rise was “hugely disappointing” and Labour had sacrificed frontline services for “wasteful spending”. Green leader Andy D’Agorne said he feared Government cuts would “bite further into core services for the most vulnerable”.