Leeds taxpayers were today handed a pre-Christmas bombshell as the council announced it was preparing to make £51m in cuts.
The bruising message came from Leeds City Council leader Coun Keith Wakefield, who warned of “unprecedented” challenges for the city in the coming year.
Proposals for the annual budget for 2013/14 will be discussed by senior councillors at an executive board meeting at Civic Hall next Wednesday.
The annual report outlines a wide-ranging savings plan, following on from the £145 million already saved in the past two years.
But Coun 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,”
The details of the report will be rubber-stamped by the full council in February after consultations.
It is part of the council’s broader four-year financial plan to 2016/17, and 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.
As part of it proposals, the council is promoting “greater collaborative working across council departments to improve efficiency and make savings” and a push to “maximise benefits” of Government funding opportunities.
The YEP reported last month that the council has already shed 12.5 per cent of its workforce - around 1,800 workers - over the past two years.
And more jobs will be slashed as the council tries to reduce 2,500 full-time posts by 2015.
“The simple fact is the council is getting smaller,” Coun Wakefield said.
“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.
Coun 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, YouChoose, asking people for ideas on how to save more money.
Views will be fed into the final budget when it is finalised in February.