This year due to the ward boundary organisation, all Leeds electors will have three votes in their respective ward and the whole council is basically up for election.
There are serious and significant issues that face the city.
The council that is elected in May will have to come to conclusions on a number of issues that will have a profound effect on the future of the city.
The first, of course, is the long-running debate about how many new houses should be built in Leeds between now and 2033 and remains one of the most important. My party remain convinced that the 70,000 target set by the Labour administration was never achievable and was highly damaging. We have been absolutely proved right in that and now the council is finally consulting on a lesser figure.
The Labour administration has already jeopardised greenfield and greenbelt sites which did not need to be sacrificed.
That doesn’t mean, however, that we don’t believe that new and particularly affordable housing isn’t needed; indeed it is. But the council have not been quick enough in bringing forward brownfield sites for development, nor have they been quick enough in developing sites for extra care housing for elderly people, helping to keep people out of care homes and hospitals for longer.
Of course it’s basic services, those that the council provides every day, which people expect to see delivered efficiently and under Labour the council seem to us to have been far too inclined to spend money on what we would term as vanity schemes, sometimes costing millions of pounds whilst cutting how much they spend on road repairs, refuse collection, street cleaning, etc.
I am afraid it’s worn a little thin for senior Labour councillors to constantly ‘cry the poor tale’ and then spend millions of pounds of public money on schemes that hit the right buttons for them.
This year Leeds City Council will be spending £18m more on council services than last year and they will be raising council tax by five per cent.
At the council budget meeting we set out a range of areas where we would spend money differently and we identified very clearly where that money was to be found to the extent that the council’s own finance department indicated that our plans did not have a significant effect on the robustness of the council’s budget.
For example, had our budget proposals been accepted, Leeds residents could be looking forward to additional food waste collections, the introduction of kerbside glass collections, an end to unfair service charges on older, more vulnerable residents living in sheltered housing blocks, £1m for Neighbourhood Networks to provided services to older people who need it the most, £1m for culture to support the City of Culture ambitions, additional funding for vulnerable learners whose funding is to be cut in 2018/19, more money for local community committees, improved energy efficiency and reduced costs through LED street-lighting, scrapping charges for inert waste that have already been introduced and the introduction of more changing places disabled toilet facilities in our city.
We have a clear and coherent plan as to how the city should be run.
We would protect frontline services, seek greater value for money for the taxpayer and look to provide additional services to all residents.
* Coun Andrew Carter Conservative group leader at Leeds City Council