Improving housing is Leeds council’s top priority for 2017

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Leeds City Council is making housing its top priority as it lays out its plan of action for the coming year.

The authority is in the final stages of preparing its ‘Best Council’ plan for the 2017/2018 financial year, and has put together a seven-point hitlist of areas for improvement.

These are good growth, transport and infrastructure, a ‘low carbon’ drive, health , resilient communities, better care and support for the vulnerable and the ‘Child Friendly city’ ambition.

Housing is identified as a key priority under six of the umbrella headings, with a deliberate focus on building more homes, affordability, decency, dealing with private landlords and other related issues.

The YEP has previously reported that the city is facing a housing crisis, with a soaring population and thousands languishing on the council hosing waiting list, sometimes for several years at a time.

Coun James Lewis, deputy leader of the council, who is spearheading the action plan, said the focus on housing was a recognition that it is an “important topic” for the city.

He said the plan for the year ahead would go “hand in hand” with the 2017/18 budget, which is set to be rubberstamped next month and is expected to include a four percent council tax rise.

Also included in the council’s overall priorities list for the first time is a better focus on flood mitigation - something that was spurred by the devastating events of Boxing Day 2015.

A draft version of the council’s action plan was presented to a cross-party scrutiny panel yesterday for initial feedback.

Councillor Eleanor Tunnicliffe questioned whether it was possible for an authority to have that many priorities and to be able to do them all justice.

And chair of the panel councillor Kim Groves wanted to know how “impact on the ground” would be measured.

Conservative councillor Dan Cohen said although there was “nothing objectionable” in the council’s ambitions, “the devil is going to be in the details”.

He suggested the document was “bordering on meaningless” until the “metrics” ow how the targets would be achieved had been worked out.

Meanwhile councillor Peter Gruen said the plan was ““unambiguous” in its intent - but pointed out that “everything the council is hoping to do is measured against a hostile environment” of Government funding cuts to local authorities. As previously reported, the council needs to save £75.3m by 2018 – and slash up to 800 jobs – due to a combination of reduced Government funding and pressures on services.

Coun Lewis told colleagues the document was “a work in progress” and the next step was to finalise the draft and “turn it into something salient for people”.

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