Cllr Claire Douglas: “We don’t spend money we don’t have”

At a media briefing today (Tuesday September 12), York City Council leader Cllr Claire Douglas made it clear that while commitments are still a priority, the city council will be financially responsible.

A key commitment ahead of the local elections in May was to ensure every primary school child received a free meal at lunchtime.

Asked whether that promise would be fulfilled at the next local election in 2027, Board Member for Education Bob Webb said he was “very hopeful.”

But Cllr Douglas interjected more cautiously.

“We would like to do that,” she said.

“But we can’t spend money we don’t have.

“It is a financial responsibility to take this very seriously and we are determined to find a way to make this happen.

“But we also need to be aware of the environment we are in.

“I don’t think the city would thank us if we gave millions of pounds to free school meals if we couldn’t provide childcare, for example.”

York Press: Cllr Claire DouglasCllr Claire Douglas

The briefing was held to present the council’s four-year plan in light of its financial difficulties. He predicts he will overspend by £11.4m without significant cash savings.

READ MORE: Councilor Katie Lomas says York City Council needs to cut services

Equality, affordability, climate and health (EVERYONE) are the priorities for the next four years, says the council, and executive members face their own challenges.

Cllr Webb is tasked with leading the Free School Meals Pledge and improving education generally.

Deputy leader Cllr Pete Kilbane wants to reduce traffic by 20 per cent by 2030, which will help co-executive members for environment Cllr Kate Ravilious and Cllr Jenny Kent achieve their goal of net zero in the same year to reach.

Cllr Michael Pavlovic leads the Affordable Housing Pledge and is pleased with current progress, while Cllr Jo Coles looks at health inequalities in the city.

She pointed out that in the poorest parts of York there is a ten year difference in life expectancy for men compared to the richest, while the difference for women is eight years.

Perhaps the biggest challenge comes from the woman whose last job was explaining the council’s difficult financial situation: Cllr Katie Lomas.

“All the big ambitions we all have for our city are massively constrained by the level of funding we receive from government and we are one of the worst funded senior authorities in the country,” she said.

In fact, it is the worst funded local authority in England.

Cllr Lomas added: “This means we need to demonstrate sound financial management to be able to continue to run the city and make decisions in the interests of those who need us most.”

She said while the city council needed to ensure “we are not the next Birmingham city council”, it needed to “put a strong focus on what the people of the city who elected us want”.

York City Council’s four-year plan will be presented to the executive on September 14. Cllr Claire Douglas: “We don’t spend money we don’t have”

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