YORK’S council tax increase was confirmed last night, as councillors debated the city’s finances into the night.
The joint Conservative and Lib Dem budget looked was voted through last night, as all 47 members of City of York Council met at the Guildhall.
Despite the three percent council tax increase, the budget still includes for around £6 million in cuts and the ruling groups came in for criticism for not "standing up for York" over those reductions.
Cllr Janet Looker, leader of the Labour group, told the Conservative leader he should follow the example of Conservative leaders in Surrey and East Sussex who have spoken out about the impact Government cuts are having on their services.
She urged the ruling groups to put more money into mental health services, and preventative work, saying that any funds spent keeping people out of hospital would be 'money well spent'.
Cllr Looker also spoke of the background, saying the council had lost £73 million since 2010 - but that was refuted by council leader Chris Steward who said the revenue budget was never more than around £129 million while it currently sits at £118 million.
Rows then erupted over a Labour amendment which sought to put the council tax increase up to 3.99 per cent and spend more money on front line services.
It was branded 'naked opportunism' by council leader Chris Steward, while others spoke of the repeated refusal to take a council tax freeze grant offered by Government when the Labour group was in power.
Lib Dem Cllr Ann Reid said Labour accused of their opponents of "lacking ambition", when the current ruling groups had talked in the past about the importance front line services.
Union rep Andrea Dudding, of Unison, backed Labour’s call for higher council tax, which she said was supported by public consultation results.
Ms Dudding went on to plead for more investment in the council’s staff, saying that without it the council’s aims risked not being met.
Green leader Cllr Andy D'Agorne said his party's proposal, for a six per cent increase in council tax, was the only one which would "come near to protecting front line services".
He also said it would force a local vote, giving people chance to decide whether they support paying more in order to provide better services.
That proposal was criticised by Conservative Cllr Stuart Rawlings, who said the £155,000 that would be spent on running the referendum would be "an awful lot of money to waste."
The three percent council tax increase - confirmed in a vote just after 9pm - will bring in around £2.2 million extra, on top of £2.1 million extra because of the increase in the number of houses to be taxed, and £1.6 million in surplus from this year.
Late changes to the financial package from central government meant ruling councillors had £781,000 more than expected to spend thanks to transitional funds.
Last night it was confirmed that money will go on sustainable transport projects, "Pride in York" work like grounds maintenance and neighbourhood projects, and bus subsidies.
Lib Dem Executive member Andrew Waller said the new budget would support community centres, vital to the volunteer efforts after the floods, and returns money to local decision making on things like grounds maintenance.
Some £125,000 is to go into contingency funds to plan for flood and drainage costs, while £300,000 was used to lower the proposed £866,000 cut to children’s early intervention and preventative work.