CITY leaders last night faced calls to refuse to set a budget including millions of pounds in cuts as a protest against Government austerity measures.

York People’s Assembly asked City of York Council’s Labour cabinet to “take a stand” and abandon its financial plans for 2014/15 and 2015/16, when the authority must make more than £23 million in savings.

However, the budget proposals – including a 1.9 per cent council tax rise next year and 240 job losses over two years – were approved and will now be debated at a full council meeting on February 27.

The plans would also see arts funding cut and the possible end of free badges providing cheap parking for residents, but more money being provided for adult social care and improvements to roads and footpaths.

People’s Assembly spokesman Dr Chris Brace said approving more service reductions would be doing the Government’s “dirty work”. He said: “What we are calling for is a great refusal – by refusing to pass an austerity budget, you will be taking a stand against useless and unnecessary cuts.”

Council leader James Alexander said he sympathised with the People’s Assembly’s view but not passing a budget would take matters out of York’s hands. He said: “People didn’t elect us to hand over control to the Government – doing that would be irresponsible and would mean many of the good things we are doing would be gone.

“There is difficult stuff in the budget and there is positive stuff. We have to set a responsible budget which protects the most vulnerable members of society and gets people back into work. I would like to see services such as salt bins come back, but we are not in that situation at the moment.”

The cabinet also approved a “transformation” programme aimed at saving a further £5.48 million on public service budgets in 2015/16. Unions fear this could lead to more outsourcing and additional job losses.