YORK’S new council rulers have been criticised for creating a new top-table role which will see its holder receive an extra £14,700 a year.

Labour has set up a crime and community safety portfolio as part of its cabinet as it prepares to officially take control of City of York Council today.

New council leader Coun James Alexander said the allowance for the role’s holder, Coun Sandy Fraser, would be recouped by holding fewer cabinet meetings and merging two committees.

But the move has been attacked by the Liberal Democrats, Labour’s predecessors in power.

Lib Dem councillor Paul Firth said: “Labour talked of frontline services under threat and risks to council jobs, yet one of the first things they have done is pay one of their own councillors an extra £14,700 a year by making up an extra position.

“The council leader has previously been more than able to deal with responsibility for the Safer York Partnership, and crime fell by more than 50 per cent under the Lib Dems when this was the leader’s responsibility. Either James Alexander feels he can’t live up to that record or Labour are looking for an excuse to pay their councillors more.

“If Labour think they can save money by reorganising council committees, it should be directed towards frontline services, not to new allowances.”

Coun Alexander said the portfolio’s priorities would include co-ordinating an annual crime summit, helping to increase the use of community payback schemes and improving noise patrols and trading standards.

“The council has not had enough of a focus on crime and antisocial behaviour and we were elected on a manifesto promising to create a high-level post to deal with this,” he said.

“Lib Dem leader Carol Runciman said her party would put pressure on Labour to keep their promises, so it’s odd they are now arguing for us not to.

Unlike the Lib Dems, Labour will honour our manifesto pledges.

“The cost of the new cabinet member will be met by rationalising the council’s committees.

“We have already taken the decision to reduce the number of cabinet meetings by half and merge two committees [gambling and licensing and regulatory licensing] whose chairs receive additional allowances, and this is just the beginning.”

York Press: The Press - Comment

Judge by results

IN the grand scheme of things, £14,700 doesn’t sound a huge amount of money, but creating a new post during a time of cutbacks does have to be questioned.

Council leaders insist the increase in salary for Coun Sandy Fraser, who will lead the new crime and community safety portfolio, will come from reorganising council committees and merging two committees.

The Lib Dems say if Labour thinks it can save money that way, the savings should be directed towards frontline services.

But the new council rulers argue there has not been enough of a focus on crime or antisocial behaviour, and they are now putting that right.

What really matters is that council spending must be driven by results. And we will need to see those results to be sure this really is money well spent.

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