THE Conservatives and Liberal Democrats have formed a coalition to run York for the next four years, ending more than a week of post-election stalemate.

Chris Steward, leader of the Conservatives, will become City of York Council leader, with his Lib Dem counterpart Keith Aspden becoming deputy council leader.

They have vowed to work together to deliver a 12-point policy programme, which includes protecting the green belt, keeping Yearsley Pool open, halting the roll-out of 20mph zones, and a renewed focus on front-line services, instead of what they called "vanity projects" backed by Labour.

They also pledge to change the way the council makes decisions, reinstating cross-party committees to give opposition parties and backbench councillors more say.

The Tories won 14 seats in the May 7 election while the Lib Dems won 12, giving the new coalition 26 of the 47 seats on the council. Labour, despite being the largest single party with 15, will form the main opposition.

York Press:

Some Lib Dems are known to be uneasy about the deal given their party's electoral collapse this month after entering national coalition with the Tories in 2010.

Cllrs Aspden and Steward would not be photographed as a duo today for fear of drawing parallels with a David Cameron and Nick Clegg partnership, instead appearing as a four with their respective deputies.

York Press:

Liberal Democrat leader Keith Aspden, left, with Conservative leader Chris Steward, right, backed by their respective deputies Ann Reid and Stuart Rawlings

The parties' shared views on York's Local Plan were pivotal to the deal, with both opposed to green belt development on the scale proposed by Labour.

Under the agreement, Yearsley Pool will remain open; the services run at the Castlegate Centre will be maintained but not necessarily there; council management faces further cuts; and more money will be given to ward committees, to fuel decisions at neighbourhood level.

An emergency budget will be prepared in July, the coalition parties say.

York Press:

Yearsley Pool will be kept open

The 12 point plan in full:

  1. Local Plan: The parties say they will prepare an "evidence-based Local Plan" that would deliver much-needed housing, focusing on brownfield land and taking "all practical steps" to protect the green belt and York's character.
  2. Waste collections: They say they will reintroduce additional winter green bin collections, ruled out further charges for collections and maintain the frequency of grey bin collections.
  3. Frontline and customer services: They vowed to increase funding for road repairs, streetlights, gulley-cleaning and litter bins; said Yearlsey Pool would remain open and said they would look to improve the the customer contact centre's responses to resident queries.
  4. Financial inclusion and support for vulnerable residents: They will support the Living Wage, support voluntary organisations and "develop financial inclusion work with measurable outcomes".
  5. Ward committees: The committees will be reinstated with "very significant" funding increases, so neighbourhoods can make bigger decisions.
  6. "Vanity projects": The coalition will bring forward a new plan for Guildhall, based on a "firm business case". It said all so-called vanity projects, including the Arts Barge, would be reassessed.
  7. Children and youth services: Services run by the Castlegate Centre will continue at a city-centre site, not necessarily Castlegate but explicitly not West Offices. The coalition will "continue to support children's centres, youth centres and apprenticeships in partnership with local businesses" and give extra support to pupils from disadvantaged backgrounds.
  8. Transport: Bus services will be supported rurally and "where they are needed". No more money will be spent on 20mph zones.
  9. Economic development: Local businesses will be helped to bid for council contracts and red tape will be cut. The coalition will "work to ensure York gets a better deal from regional partners".
  10. Value for money and fairness: The coalition say they will improve council efficiency, streamline management and always take any Government grants to freeze council tax.
  11. Recycling: The council will invest more in recycling, aiming to increase it to 50 per cent, and develop a long-term plan to cut the council's carbon emissions. It will re-establish a Green Jobs Task Group.
  12. Health and social care: There will be a "bottom-up review" of health and adult social care to "ensure a more joined-up approach, improve performance and ensure a more people-focused service".


Cllr Steward said today: “I am delighted that we have put together an arrangement which will give direction and focus for York’s council. We will drive forward on the priorities we were elected upon of keeping council tax low, prioritising frontline services and delivering a Local Plan that protects our green belt.

"This will also be an administration that engages with and listens to residents and we will respect the views of other parties."

The Labour and Green leaders will be invited to attend and speak at executive meetings.

York Press: City of York Council has confirmed its plans for green waste collections in the city

The coalition promises to reinstate extra green bin collections in winter

Cllr Aspden said the elections showed residents wanted change. He said: “Crucially, we have come to an agreement to radically alter the Local Plan in order to protect the Green Belt and the character of York.

"This is not something Labour were prepared to consider either before or after the local elections. Yearsley Pool will be kept open and the services offered at Castlegate will be protected. We are also ruling out further charges for green bins and cuts to the frequency of grey bin collections.

“The way decisions are made will also be altered. We will introduce a new system where all councillors will be part of the policy making process as well as devolving real power back to local communities through Ward Committees.

"We have seen what happens in York when one party is in power and refuses to listen. Our joint approach changes this from today.”


York Press:

UNDER the new coalition, the council cabinet will revert to its old name: the executive.

It will have eight seats, with four each for the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats. Conservative leader Chris Steward will lead the council. Lib Dem leader Keith Aspden will be his deputy. The Labour and Green leaders will be invited to speak at executive meetings.

The eight executive roles will focus on:

  • finance and performance
  • economic development and community engagement
  • environment
  • transport and planning
  • culture, leisure and tourism
  • adult social care and health
  • education, children and young people
  • housing and safer neighbourhoods

The executive members will be paid smaller top-up payments than the 6 departing Labour cabinet members, so the total bill does not increase.

There will also be five cross-party "policy and scrutiny committees". The Conservatives and Lib Dems say this will "ensure decision-making is done in public with transparency and cross-party input". It is a move away from the widely-criticised system under Labour of many private meetings.

The committees will scrutinise executive decisions and advise and assist on policy. Their five remits will be:

  • corporate and scrutiny management
  • learning and culture
  • adult social care and health
  • communities and environment
  • economic development and transport

A policy review will be prepared within three months to improve "governance, transparency and public engagement".

York Press:

Former Labour council leader Dafydd Williams said tonight he wished the new administration well - and said that where it took the 'right decisions,' it would have his support.

But he warned: "My Labour colleagues and I will oppose them vigorously whenever they implement cuts that affect services to vulnerable people."

Cllr Williams, who had led the Labour group and the council since James Alexander resigned last November, said Labour had been talking to the Liberal Democrats and Greens about the formation of a 'progressive alliance.'

He said this would have protected services to vulnerable people, formed a congestion commission to investigate York’s terrible traffic problems and continued the living wage for council employees.

"It also offered voters a say on changing the council’s governance to a committee system which is something the Liberal Democrats have campaigned for some time to support but have abandoned at the first glimpse of power.”

Cllr Williams also said it was disappointing to have learnt about the new coalition arrangement via the media and not via the Lib Dems, who had been in detailed discussions about the alternative power-sharing arrangements.

Green group leader Andy D'Agorne said his initial reaction was one of disappointment that Labour and the Conservatives had not been prepared to work together, given the difficult finances the authority was going to face in the next few years.

He said the Green group would examine the proposed policies of the coalition on a case-by-case basis, and would lend its support to some of them, such as the re-instatement and re-funding of ward committees, the retention of Yearsley Pool and the protection of Green Belt from development.

He also claimed that Labour had been insisting on a referendum over the proposed change back to a committee system.