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Council’s Executive proposes tough reductions to balance budget
City of York Council publishes its 2024-25 budget proposals today, including what senior leaders have described as ‘deeply troubling but unavoidable cuts’ to deliver a balanced budget.
A November 2023 report to the council’s Executive Committee said delivery of the council’s Medium-Term four-year Financial Strategy would be extremely challenging for residents and for the council, with services being reduced or stopped altogether, or service charges being introduced.
That report identified a budget gap of £40m over the next 4 years, with a recommended approach to budget planning to ensure savings are identified.
The council’s main budget report – its Financial Strategy 2024/25 to 2028/29 – includes detailed revenue budget proposals for 2024/25 and asks Executive to make budget recommendations to a meeting of all councillors next month for approval.
The Financial Strategy delivers a balanced budget for 2024/25 with savings proposals totalling £14.3m, equivalent to cutting almost £1m in every £10m of its revenue budget.
City of York Council Leader, Cllr Claire Douglas said:
“We’ve been clear from day one that the budget we inherited after thirteen years of central government funding cuts, combined with the depletion of council reserves, meant making some very tough decisions.
“My Executive colleagues and I are not happy about the need to take these decisions and feel deeply uncomfortable about the harrowing impact of the budgetary position we find the council in.
“Unlike other public sector organisations, we have a legal responsibility to set a balanced budget and that’s what we publish today. I can assure residents we’ll work tirelessly to limit the impact of these service reductions and work closely with our partners to continue delivering our council plan priorities, retaining our focus on equalities, affordability, climate and health”.
Councillor Katie Lomas Executive Member for Finance, Performance, Major Projects and Equalities said,
“Every year we see the increasing impact of Government funding reductions on local councils, pushing more and more closer to the brink. York is currently operating on a budget around £40m below what it should be. Our historically low funding base means we are forced to make deeper cuts than other comparable councils.
“We came into office to deliver our priorities and to achieve that, we first need to ensure the council stays afloat through robust financial management, clear priorities and a focus on cost-control.
“High inflation, increasing demand for high-cost services the council must legally deliver, national funding reductions and restrictions on income all combine to leave us having to remove almost 10% of the council’s budget. The reality is the Government has chosen to shrink councils and what they can deliver and to a large extent, local decisions makers are left to manage those national decisions. As each year passes this process will just get harder and harder”.
Key savings proposals include:
- Introduction of a Green Waste subscription service
- Changes in the contract with Explore to deliver library services
- Increases in parking charges across the city
- City-wide review of personal care and support
Councillor Jo Coles Executive Member for Health, Wellbeing and Adult Social Care, said
“As part of the challenging process of keeping the council budget balanced, it is only fair that we look at all our partnerships, so every area of service delivery can play its part in sharing the burden of financial reductions.
“We are rightly proud of our brilliant libraries service but until this financial year, York Explore has not had any of the budget cuts affecting other parts of the council. There has also been significant capital investment of £7.7m into library buildings since 2019. It’s important we are fair in how we make planned reductions in funding.
“We are committed to working with York Explore, their staff and volunteers, to increase their income from their wonderful cafes, events and from other funding sources such as grants to mitigate against the budget reductions we are being forced to make.
Cllr Coles continued:
“Funding for Adult Social Care hasn’t kept pace with increasing demand across the city, so we also have to look carefully at how we can ensure that we provide the best possible support for York’s residents and their carers, so we will also review council services, including those we provide in partnership with the NHS, and community and voluntary services.
“These are hard decisions, given the valuable person-centred support these services provide, but in undertaking this review we intend to make sure that these services have the maximum impact in supporting people and maintaining independence”.
Councillor Jenny Kent, Joint Executive Member for Environment and Climate Emergency, said,
“Ten years ago less than a third of councils charged for garden waste collection, but as Central Government has gradually removed Local Government funding, this has increased to around 70%. Put bluntly, this non-statutory service costs £1.75m per year and we now can’t afford to run it for free. Almost a third of households in the city don’t use it; we need to cover the costs to deliver it fairly, releasing significant savings that can be used to support core council obligations, and protect the most vulnerable.
“While budget is a key issue, it is also essential we deliver a commercially sound service that meets the needs of our residents and importantly, the environment. We are clear about the need to expand home composting so residents have the most environmentally responsible option possible for disposing of garden waste open to them, should they choose not to subscribe”.
The Council will be holding further public events to explain the proposals and to allow resident voices to be heard. That will take place on January 29th and will also be webcast live on the Council’s youtube channel at www.youtube.com/cityofyorkcouncil.