THE Leeds council department driving the city’s economic development and vision is undergoing a major cost-cutting overhaul of its own, as city bosses bid to streamline back office functions and reduce strain on the public purse.
The department’s budget has already been cut by £300,000 since last year.
Now, it has been revealed that some vacant posts have been slashed and the department has moved from its former city centre base alongside the Chamber of Commerce back to the council’s own Leonardo Building, saving £100,000 on rent.
Tom Bridges, the council’s chief economic development officer, told the YEP the overhaul was designed to make the department more “lean and mean” in the face of obvious financial challenges.
Mr Bridges, who has previously worked in the private sector, was drafted into the council two years ago.
He said part of his role is to “tidy things up” and “get the right people in the right roles”. It was also about “working flexibly in a fleet of foot way in the context of declining resources for local authorities”, he added.
In a report to his bosses, Mr Bridges says the “restructure” is part of a raft of changes which “seek to improve the culture, performance and effectiveness of the service”.
The aim, he says, is to “focus on outcomes, not internal process” and to make the department’s work “fit for purpose”.
The Economic Development team is a vital driver in the city’s wider ambitions.
Its work includes fostering better relationships with influential organisations, promoting manufacturing and trade with and within the city, supporting local businesses, operating the city’s markets and overseeing an array of city centre projects and emerging developments.
Opposition colleagues today welcomed the savings generated by the restructure.
Councillor Andrew Carter, leader of the Conservative group, said: “Making savings in back office functions is something to be welcomed, as it means keeping cuts away from front-line services.
“If this restructure can make the economic development service run more efficiently, focusing on genuine priorities that build economic growth for the city, then it has the potential to be a positive move.
“We can’t afford to maintain systems and processes that are running inefficiently and not achieving the kind of performance and results that the people of Leeds deserve.
“We will be watching closely to see if the restructure has the desired effect.”
Councillor Ryk Downes, deputy leader of the Liberal Democrat group, added: “By making better use of the council’s resources in this area and doing ‘fewer things better’ everyone can benefit.
“Now we need to make sure the council delivers on its targets in the coming year, and ensure it supports the whole business community, particularly the hundreds of small businesses throughout Leeds and its surrounding communities.”