Ahead of the local elections, York’s rival party leaders reveal how they plan to protect public services in the face of spending cuts.

Liberal Democrat leader Andrew Waller

“IN order to protect public services and avoid knee-jerk cuts to services, three years ago the Liberal Democrat administration started planning for the inevitable reductions in public sector spending.

We set up the More For York project so that we could review all budgets and work to deliver the same services while reducing our costs. This way, York – unlike many councils – has been able to deliver large savings while maintaining services.

We will also continue to lobby ministers for a fairer deal for York, and this has already seen additional money come into the city. And in future years, we will do the following:

• Use technology to save time and resources, ensuring that more council officer time is spent on delivering services than in administration or travelling. In the case of the Telecare, this is modernising the service to allow people to stay longer in their own homes.

• Continue to reduce office costs and energy use, meaning more resource is available for frontline services.

• Get more things done right first time and avoid repeat visits – this is saving money in areas such as housing repairs.

• Make public services more accessible and relevant to the public so they will use them, such as the converting of libraries to Explore centres which are popular community hubs.

• Let residents know how funds are spent in each ward, setting local priorities each year. This is a key Liberal Democrat belief, which ensures funding is going where it will have the greatest effect.

• Work closely with other councils and other public organisations, such as the police and the NHS, to break down the barriers within the public sector which will make resources go further.

We have also protected the support to the voluntary sector, recognising the huge role it plays in delivering public services in the city.”

Labour leader James Alexander

“LABOUR disagrees with the speed and depth of the cuts in public services inflicted by the Government.

We do not agree making people in the public sector redundant increases confidence in the markets and helps boost the local and national economy.

In February, Labour proposed an alternative council budget which would save just under £1 million of public services from cuts, while still freezing ResPark charges, increasing recycling, boosting funds for road repairs and allocating more funding for flood defences, new Park&Ride schemes and respite care.

Our plan would reverse council cuts to library staff, young people’s services, bus subsidies, homelessness prevention, Holocaust Memorial Day, health and disability assessment and disabled children’s childcare equipment, as well as teenage pregnancy funding, the development capacity of Yearsley swimming pool staff, ward committee funding and additional race-day toilets. And it would still halve the increase in adult social care charges.

We can pay for this by stripping out council waste and by reducing the communities and neighbourhoods department’s £2 million recruitment agency budget, scrapping the council’s planned £1.4 million new council office in Acomb and selling the land already purchased for this.

If Labour wins control of the council, we will enact this budget and reverse just under £1 million of service cuts.

We will set up an independently-chaired “fairness commission” to hold public meetings regarding which services residents want and need, and who is best to provide these services at a price people can afford.

Labour is also keen to explore shared services with other councils to reduce costs.

Residents want to know who will be their voice in these tough times. Labour will be that voice, because York deserves better.”

Conservative leader Ian Gillies

“WE don’t see the issue as one of ‘protecting’ public services, but of enhancing services – providing what the public expects to a high standard while developing ways of doing things better.

What do residents want from their council?

They want a safe and clean environment and basic services – road repairs, bin collections, public maintenance – carried out promptly and well.

They want planning activities to be fair and prompt. They want the services the council provides for people who need extra help to be targeted, fair and effective.

Beyond these essentials, we should be looking at how the council could facilitate providing extra services in partnership with others or perhaps, in some cases, whether the council should be providing these services at all.

I don’t accept that, because of the current spending climate, we have to see the present level of public services as so vulnerable that all we can do now is to ‘protect’ them.

In many cases, we’re actually in a position to improve them – by looking to alternative providers, seeking a greater use of shared services and continuing to press forward with greater ambition.

Furthermore, services change.

The role of care homes, for example, has altered as elderly people can choose to live longer in their own homes.

The way we address social change will mean a change in methods of delivery, but it doesn’t therefore mean the new way of working is necessarily second best.

I think the public in general has a very realistic attitude towards council services. They don’t want high council taxes providing a myriad of services they never asked for.

But they expect what they pay for to be used well and, quite frankly, a lot more cleverly than has often been the case in the past.”

Green Party leader Andy D’Agorne

“THE Green Party has been at the forefront of the campaign against the damaging cuts to public services.

We have argued consistently for investing in the things we need for a secure future. This includes decent social care for our older citizens and people with disabilities, and proper opportunities and support for our young people.

These cuts are an ideological choice. The deficit, as a proportion of Gross Domestic Product, was higher in the 1950s when the NHS and the Welfare State were set up. A strong local economy should be diverse and balanced between public, private and voluntary and community sectors.

We would achieve this through creating new ‘green’ jobs, not cutting public and voluntary sector jobs which provide much-needed local services. A wrong-headed solution.

After May 5, Green Party councillors will continue to campaign against this attack on local services.

With a weak Government without direction, local politicians should continue to challenge these cuts on behalf of York’s citizens.

We will also work constructively with other parties and organisations to minimise the worst effect of the cuts and protect services.

During the budget process, we worked up a proposal which could have reversed up to £5 million of the £21 million City of York Council cuts and saved up to 50 jobs through a ‘cut hours, not jobs’ scheme, but this was never seriously considered or put forward to the trade unions as an option. Compulsory redundancies are now the reality for council staff.

At the budget meeting, we supported the Labour Party amendment, similar to our own on the day, to reverse about £1 million of the £21 million cuts.

Greens will continue to look for creative approaches to tackling the budget shortfall, working with service users, staff, unions and the voluntary sector to continue providing good quality services.”