Fury at council's £286k funding of travellers’ site expansion

A COUNCILLOR is fuming after discovering that City of York Council is set to spend almost £300,000 on the expansion of a travellers’ site.

Independent Mark Warters claims that when assistant director of housing and community safety, Steve Waddington, briefed him last month on plans for the site in his Osbaldwick ward, he only spoke about a bid to the Government’s Homes & Communities Agency for £342,000.

But Coun Warters said he had now discovered through an FoI request to the agency that York council also intended to provide match funding of £286,000.

Documents outlining the bid to the agency had revealed that a report on the proposal was submitted to a private cabinet/council management team meeting on September 18 and received unanimous support from members and chief officers.

The document said: “Due to sensitivities in extending accommodation provision for G&T (Gipsies and Travellers) within the city, consultation has not been carried out to date. However, the landowners have been approached and parties have formally expressed an interest in selling to the council.”

It said meeting accommodation needs was a key part of attempts to “address the inequalities and improve the outcomes of this significantly marginalised minority ethnic group within the city”.

But Coun Warters, who is fiercely opposed to the plans to provide an extra six pitches, recreational area and horse grazing land, argued that at a time of cutbacks to council services across York and with another council tax rise looming, the authority could not afford to spend so much money.

He said that at the briefing, he had also been told only that a bid had been made to the agency, not that such a bid had been approved.

A council spokeswoman said the agency only ever part-funded developments and required an element of match funding.

“This was something Steve Waddington assumed Coun Warters would know and did not deliberately withhold this information,” she said.

“If it had been raised, this would have been explained.”

She said the exact amount of match-funding from the council was still to be determined and it would be met from the income generated by the additional six pitches.

“Therefore the council is not spending money it doesn’t have or that could be used elsewhere.”

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