Swingeing public sector cuts of almost £55m will hit Leeds this year after last minute attempts to change the council budget were rejected by councillors.
Controversial plans to charge for Sunday and evening city centre parking, increase council house rents and scrap school uniform grants were among cost-cutting measures approved at a full Leeds City Council meeting at Leeds Civic Hall yesterday.
Opposition councillors put forward proposals to introduce a ‘living wage’ to help lower paid council staff, earmark more money to employ more in-house foster carers and even fund an up to £12m housing scheme to boost the local economy.
But the majority of councillors backed the Labour-led council’s plan, which will come into effect in the coming weeks.
Coun Keith Wakefield, leader of the council, told the meeting: “Our budget has to be set against an economy that during 2012 showed no growth, making it the worst economic recovery in 100 years.”
The approved budget also includes saving around £1m by raising nursery fees for subsidised childcare by £2 a day and the rolling out of fortnightly bin collections, while a food collection pilot will be extended to an extra 3,000 homes.
More than half of the council’s savings come from cuts to the children’s services and adult social care budgets.
But measures to charge drivers for parking in the city centre up until 8pm and on weekends faced particular criticism.
Leader of the Conservatives, Coun Andrew Carter, said: “I always believed that Leeds would lead Yorkshire and The Humber out of recession, Leeds is the powerhouse and now with the arena about to open and more shops about to open it’s the wrong time to do this.”
Both the Liberal Democrats and Conservatives put forward plans to spend more on employing council foster carers to reduce private sector spending.
Coun Stewart Golton, leader of the Lib Dem Group, said: “If the number of private fostering placements was reduced by just one quarter, we would save £1m to spend elsewhere on our city’s children.”
He said the council’s recent recruitment of 14 new foster carers was “not enough”.
Coun Wakefield labelled opposition proposals for budget changes as “dodgy, dubious and dangerous”, calling them a temporary solution to problems when the council has another £51m of savings to find next year.
Representatives from the Green Party and Morley Borough Independents put forward no amendments, citing how the financial circumstances made it hard to criticise Labour’s plans.
The budget, which will see a further 300 full time jobs shed at the council, also features a freeze on council tax for the third consecutive year. Click here to register and have your say on the stories and issues that matter to you