LiveBudget D-Day in York

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York Press: Photograph of the Author by , Political Reporter

This live event has finished


  • Council to settle its budget tonight
  • Angry protesters demonstrate against cuts
  • Council tax set to rise by 1.9%


The vote is taken on Labour's budget. 24 in favour, 19 against, one abstention. Their budget plans have been passed. The vote on council tax also goes in Labour's favour, meaning bills will rise by 1.9 per cent next year.

There'll be a full report on the outcome of tonight's meeting on shortly. Thanks for following our rolling coverage tonight, and if you've enjoyed it half as much as we have, then we've enjoyed it twice as much as you. Goodnight.


Green councillors Andy D'Agorne and Dave Taylor storm out of the council chamber and refuse to officially move their amendment. We believe it's due to the lack of time they had. Coun Taylor utters "Disgraceful" as he walks out.


Opposition parties say they want more time to "debate the actual budget rather than the amendments" as the meeting is due to finish at 10pm under council rules. Labour vote against it so we're nearly done here. 


The Lib Dem budget amendment is also voted down.


Coun Alexander gets his say on the Lib Dem budget proposals. He says they would leave a "financial black hole" and the reason more money had to go into the council's reserves was because the Lib Dems had "dwindled" them to the legal minimum when in power.

He says abolishing the Economic Infrastructure Fund and replacing it with a Future York Fund would leave York with "two schemes and that's it". He says the Lib Dem budget is "irresponsible and throws away the long-term future of the city for cheap headlines today".


There are ten minutes left before the guillotine comes down on the meeting, which is nowhere near as sinister as it sounds. It means that's it for the night, budget-wise.


The amount of money Labour plans to put into the council's cash reserves - £1.1 million - is criticised by Lib Dem councillor Nigel Ayre. "The argument is  we should create 'headroom'. The reality is that hardworking families don't have headroom". He says the council cannot afford the Delivery and Innovation Fund rather than spending money on roads maintenance and ensuring green waste collections remain free.

He describes Labour's budget as full of "broken promises and flawed policies". "Councillors have a simple choice - to protect fundamental services residents deserve and are entitled to, or continue to put the needs of residents below those of Coun Alexander's binge-spending bandwagon."


Lib Dem councillor Keith Aspden is speaking about his group's plans to reverse adult social care cuts which were made last year, removing care for nearly 200 people with moderate needs. "It has meant a huge cost for those affected and means the short-term savings are likely to be cancelled out". He says if money was saved from the council's Delivery and Innovation Fund, these services could be reinstated. He also says his group have concerns about Labour's budget plans for 2014/15 and how savings will be made.


Coun Dafydd Williams says the purpose of a budget amendment is to set out an "alternative vision". With the Conservative and Lib Dem amendments, he says "there isn't one". "It's incredible short-termism and a wasted opportunity, cutting things which will bring growth to the city". On 20mph limits on all residential streets, he says "They save lives." He says he would "love" to freeze council tax but the freeze grant would be "built into our budget for two years and then disappear, so there will be even less money for the city going forward."


Labour councillor Lindsay Cunningham-Cross says the Lib Dem amendment shows "short-sightedness" and the group had shown they could not control council finances during their time in power. She said: "Now they want us to take a bung from central Government. They cannot see the problems long-term." She says: "We cannot sacrifice people's long-term future by making short-term promises we can't keep".


Cutting services such as litter and salt bins has "genuinely angered" residents, says Coun Runciman, whose group's amendment would reverse this. She also opposes charging for green waste collections and changing opening times for Towthorpe tip.

Coun Runciman says there has to be a "rebalancing of investment" so money is spent in communities and villages as well as in the city-centre. She says Labour has "lost sight of what actually matters to residents", and "sanity" had to be brought to the council's finances by reducing borrowing.


Coun Runciman says her group's "overriding priorities" are to "protect frontline services and help residents, not borrow more money and have to pay more interest for ever and a day".

She says Labour "cannot continually complain about cuts and plead poverty then turn down Government mony, hitting the pockets of local people instead". She says money should be accepted to freeze council tax "if it is on the table".



The Conservative budget amendment is voted down. Now it's the turn of the Liberal Democrats.


Coun Alexander says his group committed themselves to low council tax when elected, and "1.9 per cent is low". "Once upon a time, the Tories prided themselves as the party of job creation. They have abandoned this in their budget amendment. They would rather spend money on the Guildhall. I have not met one resident who says we should be refurbishing it. The Conservatives in York are the past; Labour are the future." He says they have a "buy now, pay later attitude to council services" and freezing council tax now will mean huge cuts further down the line.


Coun Brian Watson, who represents Guildhall, says councillors have to think about "the city in general" and not "protecting themselves". 


Bishopthorpe councillor John Galvin says 20mph zones - which his party wants to see scrapped - have been ignored since being introduced on Bishopthorpe Road and they cannot be enforced. "People are not going to take any notice. It's totally irrelevant and this money could be spent on services which benefit citizens."


Conservative councillor Joe Watt begins by apologising for his clothing - he isn't wearing a suit but still looks smart enough - then says the Labour budget is "immoral". "Your policies hurt the very people you say you protect, your housing policy is a disaster. You have your dogma and you have to stick to it". He says the proposals to raise parking charges have "twisted the bayonet" for city-centre businesses and said he had warned Labour councillors that charging for garden waste collections was a "poisoned chalice" but "you are going to do it anyway - it shows contempt".



Ken King, Clifton councillor, says Coun Gillies' amendment has been "cobbled together on the back of his hand while standing at the bus stop". He describes Labour's plans as "fair, honest and responsible".


Hull Road Labour councillor Neil Barnes says other parties are talking about "choices" at a local level, but not questioning choices made by central Government.


Liberal Democrat leader Coun Carol Runciman says she welcomes the Conservative stance on council tax and scrapping a review of the garden waste collections, but says they have ignored libraries and other services. She says they have shown an "inconsistent approach to budgeting" and questions why they want to spend £1.4 million on preserving the Guildhall rather than protecting services.


Green councillor Dave Taylor says the Tory budget is "an unholy mixture" and his party will not support their amendment. "We can't accept the argument for more cars in the city centre [by scrapping 20mph limits]." He says the Government's council tax freeze grant is a "bribe".


Conservative councillor Paul Doughty says the budget is "all about choices" and there is some flexibility for changes to be made to Labour's proposals. He says residents care about basic frontline services and "the balance has to be right". "People want to see their potholes repaired, not excessive schemes of grandeur". He describes leaving parks unlocked as "ludicrous" and says road repairs are "slipping down the list of priorities for this administration".


Concluding, Cllr Gillies says Labour are not the party of ordinary residents that they claim to be.

His comments are seconded by Cllr Chris Steward, who says the economy is in the state it is in due to "13 years of Labour misrule".

He says the Conservative plans are workable and affordable. He says most councils are choosing to freeze council tax and says York is instead increasing it.

He asks whether this budget is about doing what is right for the people of York or about council leader James Alexander's hopes of being elected to Westminster, and he attacks cuts to salt bins, possible charges for green bin collections and the plan to leave parks unlocked at night. He says the Conservatives also want to invest in the economy rather than "hitting businesses in the centre by increasing parking charges". He says money should be saved by cutting the 20mph plans, reducing spending on Labour cabinet members, the arts barge and union funding, and would freeze council tax.

Cllr Steward said it was an insult to residents to propose increasing parking charges by 10p an hour for non-residents but 20p an hour for residents.


Council leader James Alexander has also tweeted his budget speech:


Cllr Gillies also criticises the proposed increases in parking charges. He says parking was used as a "cash-cow" by the previous Lib Dem administration and says Labour have done the same.


Cllr Gillies says money could be saved by, among other things, stopping the roll-out of 20mph zones around York. Still on roads, he adds: "Unless we address the maintenance of our roads on an annual basis they will fall into an unacceptable state of repair," he says.

He adds: "If good roads are provided for the Grand Depart [of the Tour de France], they should also be provided for our residents."


Conservative leader Ian Gillies is now delivering his party's amendment statement. "We are here because we have spent and borrowed too much but Labour propose more spending and more debt," he says.

He says the Labour council "has never answered the really difficult questions" about what services the council should provide.

He says the council's main thrust has been to scrape together what money it can and distribute it to traditional Labour areas, with little thought for general citizens.

He says serices have been stripped to the bone but "pet projects" such as the Arts Barge favoured, and accuses the council of making a song and dance about things previous council administrations "just got on with".


The Conservatives have tweeted their full budget statement here:


We're having a quick break now. Bit of fresh air, trip to McDonald's and then we'll be back.


Ending his speech, Coun Alexander says "We must make decisions now, not just for the short-term but for the long-term interests of the residents of the city. We will do everything we can to ensure the city has the future it deserves."


Coun Alexander says no children's centres or swimming pools will close in York under Labour's budget plans, but "all such options were considered". On changes to the way libraries are run, he says the council wants "first-class" libraries but has to look at other ways of operating them to cut costs. On leaving parks unlocked, he says:"We cannot prioritise spending tens of thousands of pounds on this service when others are under such critical pressure".


Thanks to bjb for this comment. All feedback welcome.

7:54pm Thu 28 Feb 13

bjb says

Like the idea of the running commentary on events and don't see the need for politically biased sniping via Twitter. Please leave the tweeting to the birds and stick to reporting the debate. This is an important issue that does not need to become embroiled in snide sarcastic web remarks.


A couple more tweets from councillors:


He says York has been dealt with unfairly compared to southern councils and other authorities are also turning their backs on the Government's council tax freeze grant, saying: "The bubble has burst on this con". He says all additional income from a council tax rise will go to adult social care.


Coun Alexander says his group have "not flinched from making tough decisions". "I know some people think cuts are an excuse for anything, but the scale of funding cuts for local government is unprecedented".


The petition debate is over, so now it's onto the budget, with Coun Alexander presenting the ruling Labour group's proposals.


Council leader James Alexander says the EMA "does have some kind of effect" but people who want to further their education will still be able to do so. "There is no doubt the EMA is a good thing, but it is difficult if not impossible for us to fund it". He also hits back at outbursts from the public gallery, describing them as "very rude". One speaker says they are "showing their contempt" for the council. It's an angry exchange and not something you usually see.


Green leader Coun Andy D'Agorne welcomes the petition, but says the EMA was a nationally-funded scheme taken way by a Government "with other priorities, such as tax breaks for the wealthy". He says there will be more pressure on young people who want to go into further education but find financial pressures holding them back. He says the council cannot fund the EMA but should scrutinise what it can do for students.


Councillor Tony Richardson says the withdrawal of the EMA has not affected the number of people staying in further education in York. "In fact, they have gone up". He says: "We have not got a perfect system but at least it is protecting the vulnerable people of the city".


Another tweet from the chamber - this one from Conservative Chris Steward:


A member of the public shouts that the cost of introducing a local EMA should be set against the cost of the new council offices. In a very civic manner, the Lord Mayor asks him to pipe down.


Coun Janet Looker, cabinet member for education, said the decision to scrap the EMA was made "without any thought at all" after it had helped ensure young people could go on to further education. She said bringing it back was not something which could be done at a local level, especially in terms of students from outside York coming to the city to study.


Coun Julie Gunnell says the principle of the petition is that "everybody should have the right to education with no barriers". She says: "When Government make cuts it impacts on local authorities up and down the country. It's about changes to the financial system local authorities have to work with". 

She says she is "gutted" the council does not have the money but it would cost £5.87 million to introduce the EMA at a local level.


Councillors now have 30 minutes to debate the petition on the Education Maintenance Allowance, which has 1,167 signatures.

Labour councillor Barbara Boyce says the EMA worked because it acted as an incentive for students and gave opportunities "to those who may have missed out". But she says: "Sadly, the council does not have the spare cash to fund it and give a grant to all students". 


Add your thoughts on the debate or the budget generally. If tweeting, use the hashtag cycbudget - or post in the comments section below.


The petition against leaving parks unlocked has received 1,400 signatures, meaning it has to be debated by councillors. 


That's the end of the public speaking. Petitions will now be tabled.


A second Unison speaker is addressing councillors, urging against cuts to the library and arts services.


Some councillors are tweeting as well, from the chamber. We'll embed a few here  where topical -



Heather McKenzie of York Unison is speaking in favour of the council tax rise. She says it is unfortunate but the right decision in the long-term.

She is concerned about changes in care provision however. She says outsourcing care will drive down terms and conditions for staff.

"We do question why instead of pushing more services to be outsourced, the council does not look in to setting up a local authority trading company," she adds.

She says many of the budget plans are vague and based on a presumption that reorganisation will lead to cost savings.


There is a very old sign in the public gallery here, which says: "No manifestation of feeling on the part of the public will be allowed during the council meetings." That has been breached a few times tonight!


The 8th speaker is Malcolm Dewhurst, speaking against plans to increase bowling green fees.

He says clubs affected will struggle if the increase is approved.

He says at Scarcroft there are 6 clubs, totalling  100 members. He says asking them to pay an extra £60 on top of what they pay is "too much". 


Becky Seddon, a Holgate resident is speaking in support of a 1,400-name petition opposing the plan to leave parks open at night. Many residents near West Bank Park and Hull Road Park fear vandalism, petty crime and littering will rise if the parks are left unlocked.

She urges councillors to rethink their plans.


For those unfamiliar with full council meetings, this is the usual routine. All public speakers, on any issue, are invited to speak at the beginning of the meeting, ahead of all debates, rather than making members of the public wait through alternative issues before speaking on their own.


Now speaking is Haxby resident Mr Richardson, who says the meeting should be suspended so the council cabinet can rethink its proposed tax rise.


A note while we're between speakers.... this is the first time we've tried live coverage of this nature for a full council meeting in York, so we'd welcome any feedback.


Now speaking is Simon Moss, speaking against the plan to leave parks unlocked at night. He says he argued against such a policy two years ago, under Lib Dem proposals, and  is arguing against it again now.

He says the cuts are not council leader James Alexander fault, but the coalition Government's.


Now speaking is Nigel Smith, retired teacher, also supporting the EMA petition.

He attacks local council consultaiton, saying it is not good enough.

He says councillors are "doing the dirty work" for the Government by rubberstamping cuts.

He says the proposed council budget is "immoral".


He says councillors risk denying some young people access to education, in a city that prides itself on education.


Lee Wilkes, a trade union representative of York TUC, is addressing councillors, speaking in support of the petition against the cut in the Educational Maintenance Allowance (EMA).

"I know there are honest Labour councillors in this chamber who believe they are trying to alleviate devastating cuts", he says.

But he says councillors are "misguided" if they make this cut. 

He says the message is not that Labour is not woring but that austerity policiies are not working.


A University of York student is speaking, accusing Labour councillors of "betrayal" if they vote to cut the Educational Maintenance Allowance. 


Before the meeting starts, a minute's silence is held in memory of former councillors Cyril Waite and Joan Dales, who died recently.


The Lord Mayor of York, Coun Keith Hyman, warns the meeting will be suspended if there are any interruptions, such as the table-top protest of two years ago. He says he expects the meeting to be "conducted in a respectful and professional manner".


The public gallery in Guildhall's council chamber is filling up. The budget meeting is due to start in a few minutes.


Ahead of the meeting, protestors are gathering outside Guildhall, in St Helen's Square. They're particularly angry about the cuts to the Educational Maintenance Allowance, which they say will hit many students hard.


The Greens, finally, have proposed using £300,000 from the council’s Economic Infrastructure Fund to establish a council-owned renewable energy company, create a new post concentrating on how the council can cut its waste and landfill tax bills after the Government withdrew funding for a new waste incinerator in North Yorkshire and reverse plans to leave parks unlocked.

They want more money to be invested in bus services, backing for small businesses and supporting local food-growing, while opposing Labour plans for the library service and outsourcing control of elderly people’s homes.


The council’s Liberal Democrat group, which ran the council for eight years until 2011, has proposed reintroducing support from the authority’s community care service for people with “moderate” needs, after this was axed last year to save money.

They would abandon plans for changes to the way York’s libraries are run and to green waste collections and Towthorpe tip’s operation, as well as reversing Labour’s cuts to litter and salt bins, gully-cleaning and ward committee funding.

The Lib Dems would also freeze council tax, spend an extra £500,000 on road repairs, lower a planned increase in the council’s cash reserves by £400,000 and abolish the Delivery and Innovation Fund, which provides money for projects agreed by council leader James Alexander and a senior officiak and is due to receive £1 million in 2013/14.


The Conservatives – the council’s main opposition group – have tabled a budget amendment calling for the council tax freeze grant to be accepted and an extra £1 million a year annually to be spent on basic road repairs over the next four years.

The money for roads would be partly funded over the next two years by scrapping Labour’s plans for a blanket 20mph speed limit on residential streets. The Tories also want to reverse the increased parking charges, saying price hikes will damage city-centre businesses, the park plans and a proposed review of waste collections which could see residents charged for green waste collections and changes to Towthorpe tip’s opening times.

Other Conservative proposals include cutting the council’s cabinet by three members and using £1.4 million earmarked for creating a digital media centre to be spent on preserving Guildhall for future use instead, once the council moves out. Facelift plans for the city-centre and Newgate Market would be delayed until 2014/15.


A quick synopsis on where the three main parties stand tonight......

The council’s ruling Labour group, which holds the majority, has proposed rejecting a Government grant which would allow York’s council tax bills to be frozen in 2013/14.

They want it to rise by 1.9 per cent, saying accepting the grant would mean higher bills or more service cuts in the future as £1.3 million more would have to be saved by 2015.
Labour says raising council tax will allow an extra £1.5 million to be spent on adult social care next year, as part of plans to increase funding for this area by £6 million over two years.

The group’s proposals also include raising car-parking charges from April, leaving parks unlocked, and cutting the council’s streetlighting and street-cleaning budget.

But Labour has pledged extra investment of £48.4 million over five years for a raft of schemes, including helping elderly and disabled people continue to live at home, telecare health systems, new council housing and a loft conversion and extension project to reduce overcrowding in council properties.

Its plans also include more money for alleygates, repairs to roads, riverbanks and the Bar Walls and £1 million over five years for highway drainage.


COUNCILLORS in York are tonight making decisions which affect every resident in the city as they set their annual budget.

Guildhall is the setting for City of York Council’s annual budget meeting, where the authority will determine how it is going to save £20 million over the next two years, with 242 jobs facing the axe during that time.

The Press will be following the debate every step of the way through our rolling coverage of the meeting, and you can give your views by tweeting @yorkpress using the hashtag #cycbudget or by commenting below.

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