City spending 850 million kroner on social initiatives

Mayor says that healthy city finances produced funding windfall, but Konservative argues the surplus demonstrates that taxes are still too high in the city

The City Council agreed on Friday to spend an additional 850 million kroner on social initiatives across Copenhagen.

The money will go toward building 225 new youth homes and 165 affordable homes for students and ordinary Copenhageners. The extra funds will also fund employment initiatives, improve the conditions for the socially vulnerable, increase security in Nørrebro, and allow for a lowering of taxes on businesses.

Parents will benefit as 123 million kroner has been set aside to ensure that children can find a daycare spot at a location within four kilometres of their home, and three city schools will be renovated.

Mayor Frank Jensen (Socialdemokraterne) said that the additional funding was made available because of the city’s healthy finances.

“Our economy is strong, which is why we can strengthen the community in Copenhagen by both improving the conditions for ordinary Copenhageners and for some of the most vulnerable children and adults,” Jensen said in a press release. “We are investing in public housing to make sure that it’s not only the elite who can afford to live in the city. We are making sure that children can be looked after within four kilometres of their home and we are renovating schools from top to bottom."

Some 381 million kroner of the additional funds were left over from 2012’s budget and the remainder was found mostly through higher than expected returns on public investment.

According to the City Council, the additional funding brings the city’s planned investment to almost 13 billion between 2013-2017 – a historically high number which is expected to create an additional 15,000 jobs.

Thirty million has been set aside specifically for Nørrebro, a multicultural inner city district and a hot-spot in the ongoing gang disturbances.

According to the deputy mayor for health and care, Nina Thomsen (Socialistisk Folkeparti), the investment will be directed at finding ways to displace the gangs in the troubled, but trendy, district.

“It will, for example, improve the conditions for creative businesses and culture and create a strong and lively area that will attract a broad range of the city’s residents,” Thomsen said in the press release. “We have also fought to have several hundred cheap homes for students. Both will contribute to creating a dynamic city with space for many types of people and incomes.”

The Vesterbro district will also get a lift, as the city plans to improve infrastructure for buses and bicyclists down the busy street Istedgade.

Other initiatives including increasing the funding for helping abused and handicapped children as well as programmes designed to help the long-term unemployed find their way back to work.

The deal passed on Friday with support of the three government coalition parties, Enhedslisten, and Liberal Alliance.

Opposition parties Venstre and Konservative did not support the deal. According to Rasmus Jarlov, leader of the Konservative in the City Council, the city ought to be reducing taxes instead of spending surplus funds.

“Frank Jensen defends [the plan] by saying that the City Council has the ninth-lowest income tax in the country,” Jarlov wrote on Facebook. “But [Copenhagen] also has some of the country’s highest property and business taxes and a vast income from parking. The truth is that the City Council has no respect for taxpayers' funds and are out spending money at a time when other parts of society are having to save.”





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