The Leader of Leeds City Council Councillor Keith Wakefield has warned of having to make decisions “more challenging than any of us imagined” after outlining budget proposals aimed at saving a further £51.3million for next year.
The proposals for the council’s annual budget for 2013/14 will be discussed by senior councillors at the executive board meeting to be held at Civic Hall on Wednesday 12 December.
The annual report outlines measures across the council to achieve additional savings following on from the £145m reductions to council funds already realised over the last two years due to cuts in government funding and rising costs and demand for essential services.
The details of the report are now to be consulted on before being discussed and finalised at a meeting of the full council on February 27 2013.
The report has been prepared as part of the council’s broader four-year financial plan to 2016/17 to provide stability as it strives to be seen as the best city in the UK, but the details will be influenced by the amount of funding to be received from the government when the Local Government Finance Settlement is announced later this month.
Underpinning the proposals, key themes for 2013/14 include:
- Working to ensure best levels of frontline services can be offered in local areas
- Developing stronger links with partners such as the NHS, businesses, community groups and third sector organisations to maintain or take over running of services
- Leeds City Council becoming a smaller organisation but with a larger influence through developing new or existing partnerships
- Developing additional income from new funding streams to protect jobs and services
- Greater collaborative working across council departments to improve efficiency and make savings
- Greater collaborative working with other councils to maximise benefits of the City Deal devolved powers and funding from government to the Leeds City Region
Leader of Leeds City Council Councillor Keith Wakefield said:
“Looking to deliver yet more savings, after already saving £145m, is more challenging than any of us imagined. Sadly, there is no escaping the fact that future savings will directly affect services and jobs, and our ability to protect services will be more restricted than ever. That said, we do still have choices about how to make savings –and we need to be clear about those choices, however difficult they may be.
“We are looking at all areas of the council to find savings, including some that we hoped we would never have to consider. We remain determined to do all we can to improve the lives of people in Leeds through new ways of working, although the simple fact is the council is getting smaller. We need to look at any and all ideas to ensure the best services can be offered to people in whatever form that may be. The council is in an incredibly difficult position but we are determined to work through this as a city.”
The council has an option to freeze Council Tax in Leeds for a further year for 2013-14, with the government offering a grant equivalent to a one per cent rise for both next year and the year after. Councils which choose not to accept the grant would be limited to raising Council Tax by a maximum of two per cent with any wishing to increase by more having to carry out a referendum on the subject.
The numbers of staff at Leeds City Council is projected to fall by another 388 full-time equivalent posts in 2013-14, adding to approximately 1,800 staff to have left since April 2010 as part of the drive to reduce staff numbers by 2,500 full-time posts by March 2015, a 12.5 per cent reduction in the overall council workforce excluding school-based staff.
The council has operated a voluntary retirement and severance scheme for those staff who have left, and another scheme for any staff who wish to leave before April 2016 has now been launched.
Under the budget proposals adult social care and children’s services will continue to be the focus of council resources, but with a stronger concentration on preventative interventions and reablement services which it is hoped will bring about significant savings as well as improving people’s lives.
The proposals would see the alternative-week recycling and waste bin collection services rolled out across the city, helping to encourage greater recycling while cutting costs and reducing landfill.
Encouraging business and housing growth is a key aim of the budget, with spend on services such as planning and economic development protected where possible. In addition to maintain the condition of the road network in Leeds the highways budget would remain unchanged, while an increase in funding for transport improvements would form part of the commitment to carry out the £1billion West Yorkshire Transport Fund as set out in the City Deal.
Summing up the budget proposals, Councillor Wakefield added:
“Looking ahead, 2013 is going to be a big year for Leeds with the opening of the long-awaited Leeds Arena and Trinity Leeds plus a major focus on investment and job creation through the City Deal and the work of the Leeds City Region. So it is important to remember it is not all doom-and-gloom, but make no mistake about the severity of the challenge we face which is exceptionally difficult and unprecedented in modern history.”
Consultation and discussions on the budget proposals will now be carried out within the council and with partners, stakeholders and third sector groups in the city. The council has also launched an online budget simulator called YouChoose which more than 1,000 people have already completed. The aim of the simulator is to realise savings while continuing to provide essential services, while it also offers an insight into how council resources are currently used. Everyone who takes part before Monday 24 January 2013 will have their views considered when the budget is finalised in February and to take part go to www.leeds.gov.uk/youchoose.
For more information on the council budget and ways to have your say visit www.leeds.gov.uk/budgetconsultation
Notes to editors:
The Leeds City Region Partnership brings together the eleven local authorities of Barnsley, Bradford, Calderdale, Craven, Harrogate, Kirklees, Leeds, Selby, Wakefield, York and North Yorkshire County Council to work with businesses and partners toward a common prosperous and sustainable city region in areas such as transport, skills, housing, spatial planning and innovation. For more information visit www.leedscityregion.gov.uk/
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