Once again, the council has had to prepare its annual budget within the limits set by the Government’s spending plans. Our annual budget is set within the context of the Government’s spending review on 4 September, which covered the financial year 2020/21. A full multi-year spending review will be conducted by Government in 2020 setting national capital and resource budgets beyond 2020/21.
To date the council has responded successfully to this financial challenge. Although our budget strategy does see many areas of the council continuing to reduce budgets, we continue to focus on the ambitions outlined in our Best Council Plan. Our ambition is for Leeds to be the best city in the UK: compassionate and caring with a strong economy; which tackles poverty and reduces inequalities; working towards being a net zero carbon city by 2030. We want Leeds to be a city that is distinctive, sustainable, ambitious, fun and creative for all, with a council that its residents can be proud of as the best council in the country.
Recognising the increasing demand for Adult Social Care (ASC) services, in 2016/17 the Government announced a new power for local authorities with social care responsibilities to increase council tax. Government has again permitted a 2% ASC precept for 2020/21. The Leeds element of council tax for 2020/21 is therefore increasing by 3.99%, made up of a 1.99% core increase plus 2% to be used exclusively to protect and improve ASC services. This increase is within the limits set by Government.
Council tax bills include amounts (also known as “precepts”) for the Police and Crime Commissioner and the Fire and Rescue Authority. The Police and Crime Commissioner has increased the Police council tax by £9.33 (4.99%) per Band D property and the Fire and Rescue Authority have increased their council tax by £1.28 (1.97%) per Band D property. As a result the overall increase in council tax in Leeds is 4.03%, which in cash terms is £66.25 for a band D property - equivalent to £1.27 per week.
For those living in areas with parish or town councils the overall increase may be slightly different, because many local precepts set by these councils and included in your council tax bill have also changed this year.
Our consultation on the Initial Budget Proposals for 2020/21 tells us that people were generally supportive of the council’s approach to the budget, with more than three quarters of those responding agreeing that we should raise money through increasing council tax and charges. The consultation identified that the services identified by those responding as mattering a lot to the city of Leeds were:
- keeping children safe (85%)
- working with police to prevent and tackle crime and antisocial behaviour (80%)
- keeping streets and neighbourhoods clean and dealing with waste (79%)
- supporting older and vulnerable people (77%)
- making roads safe, reducing congestion and making it easier to get around (77%)
The same five services were identified as the highest personal priorities for the people who responded, though in a slightly different order. In addition, ‘tackling climate change and protecting the environment’ ranked joint 5th highest personal priority.
Over 61% of our expenditure for 2020/21 will be on ASC and Children’s Services, reflecting our Best Council Plan priority to support the most vulnerable across the city.
Despite having to take difficult decisions about the level and quality of services and how to target them towards greatest need, we continue to develop our approach to design care and support arrangements around the strengths of individual service users and carers.
We have included extra funding to support teams in Adults and Health to work with dementia sufferers.
Leeds is nationally recognised as a sector leader in Children and Families and is using grant funding from the Department for Education’s Partner in Practice programme to invest in new initiatives around early intervention, staff development and the adolescent service to reduce the numbers of Children Looked After in the city.
As an authority, we have increased our lowest pay rate to £9.36 per hour, a figure 6p above the Real Living Wage rate of £9.30 an hour. We have also, in respect of services commissioned from external providers by both Adults and Health and Children and Families directorates made financial provision to be consistent with the national minimum wage assumptions for 2020/21.
We continue to invest in homelessness prevention, reducing temporary accommodation placements and assisting rough sleepers with drug and alcohol dependency issues, and to support local voluntary organisations.
The council continue to invest in the infrastructure of the city, with funding provided to support and maintain highways, bridges, transport and street lighting packages, making roads safe, reducing congestion and making it easier to get around.
Extra funding has been budgeted for to enable the council to deliver its ambition to become carbon neutral and to help address the climate emergency.
As in previous years the council is working with West Yorkshire Police to ensure that numbers of Police and Community Safety Officers (PCSOs) in the Leeds district will be maintained at current levels.
Leeds will again host one of the stages of the Tour de Yorkshire in 2020, boosting the local economy and showcasing Leeds and Yorkshire across the world.
We have budgeted to save over £28m in 2020/21 mainly by continuing to deliver organisational efficiencies: reducing spending on back office operations whilst protecting frontline services and those for the most vulnerable through tightly managed staffing levels, reviewing leadership and management arrangements, reducing non-essential budgets and making savings in procurement and purchasing.