OPPOSITION councillors in York are challenging the city’s ruling Labour administration to rethink controversial council budget savings of £14.3 million proposed for the next financial year beginning in April.

The Liberal Democrats claim Labour’s budget proposals would leave families living in council homes up to £500 a year worse off.

And they plan to tell a meeting of the council’s Executive this afternoon that the cuts are ‘not necessary’.

Lib Dem deputy leader Cllr Paula Widdowson, who will be addressing the meeting, said: “We will be urging them to rethink, and to consider the impact that this will have on people’s lives.”

York Press: Cllr Paula WiddowsonCllr Paula Widdowson (Image: Supplied)

But Labour today hit back. Cllr Katie Lomas, the Labour executive member for finance, said: “York Liberal Democrats continue to live in the sort of financial fantasy world that highlights why York opted for Labour to run the council last May – the only party prepared to clean up the mess they left and to deliver sensible, properly funded budgets.” 

The Liberal Democrats say that Labour intends to increase rents for a Band D council property by 7.7 per cent in the next financial year.

They say that, coupled with a proposed 4.99 per cent rise in council tax and a proposed £46.50 yearly charge for emptying green bins, would see £504 a year added to the outgoings of York families already struggling with the cost of living crisis.

Labour’s planned £14.3 million of savings – which, amongst other things, would see reductions in spending on libraries and adult social care, as well as increased car park fees and a charge for green bin collections - were announced last week when the administration published its draft budget for 2024/25.

Labour says the savings are needed to plug an expected £40 million ‘black hole’ in the council’s finances over the next three years.

But Liberal Democrat councillors insist that that ‘black hole’ is a ‘worst case scenario’ – and that the authority’s finances one or two years from now are unlikely to be that bad.

They question why Labour needs to make such big savings in the year ahead.


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The Lib Dems will be publishing their own alternative budget next week.

But they will be urging Labour councillors to think again at this afternoon’s Executive meeting.

Cllr Widdowson said it ‘beggared belief’ that Labour councillors could be proposing savings which would hit ordinary York families so hard.

The Lib Dems say they would not introduce a green bin charge, or ‘cut libraries’. Neither measure is necessary, they claim.

And it was ‘unthinkable’ that cuts of £300,000 a year over the next two years in the libraries contract for Explore York – an independently-run mutual organisation - should even have been considered without consulting with Explore first, they say.

York Press: City of York Council wants to reduce its contractual funding for Explore York Libraries by £300,000 a yearCity of York Council wants to reduce its contractual funding for Explore York Libraries by £300,000 a year (Image: Agency)

The Lib Dems are also challenging Labour plans to trim £1.2 million from the adult social care budget over the next two years by managing a ‘reduction in demand’, while also cutting spending on early intervention programmes by £600,000.

Lib Dem leader Cllr Nigel Ayre said the best way to reduce demand for adult social care was to try to make sure people didn’t need it in the first place – ie by focussing on early intervention. Cutting both didn’t make sense.

Labour claim that the Lib Dems themselves, when in power, cut more than £1million from early intervention and prevention work in children’s services - and millions more from adult social care over several years.

On green bins, they say that under their proposals, York tenants on low income and in receipt of council tax support will get a 50 per cent discount on the charge for collecting green bins – so they’d only pay £23.25 a year.

They can also opt not to have a green bin collection at all – or share a bin with a neighbour.

“The Lib Dem figures don’t stack up,” Cllr Lomas said.

York Press: Cllr Katie LomasCllr Katie Lomas (Image: Supplied)

“They know full well the Conservative Government wants councils to levy maximum council tax increases and to shrink the services they can provide instead of funding them properly, forcing them into making these difficult decisions.

“Perhaps most worrying of all, Liberal Democrats appear to be suggesting the council’s chief finance officer’s advice be ignored, a consistent hallmark of councils that later go bust.”

Today’s Executive meeting is at 4pm – although no final budget decisions will be taken.

The authority’s budget will not be finalised until a budget meeting scheduled for February 22.

You can read the council's detailed budget proposals here

Cuts to voluntary organisations

The Lib Dems are also condemning Labour proposals to trim a total of £380,000 from council contracts for voluntary organisations in York – organisations ranging from York Mind to Age UK and the Wilberforce Trust. These cuts would come on top of the ending of the £96,000 Salvation Army rough sleepers contract announced last year.

Cllr Carol Runciman, the Lib Dem spokesperson for Health, Wellbeing and Adult Social Care, said: “All the evidence suggests that these services and contracts are great value for money and take vital pressure off services that the council provides.

“In the long run, this will only result in a reduction in service quality and even greater pressures on the council’s finances.”

The opposition party also opposes plans to trim £900,000 from the budget for things like grass cutting and cleaning up graffiti .

The council’s graffiti-cleaning team is already paid by companies such as Virgin and O2 to clear graffiti from their property, Cllr Widdowson said. With a little imagination it could easily become self-funding.

Labour says the planned £900,00 saving in 2024-25  from the 'Place directorate' has not yet been decided, and will depend on options presented in public from council officers.