Leeds 'back to 1930s' cuts claim

Leeds families are today being warned they are facing hardships not seen since the 1930s.

The leader of the city's council says "economy measures not seen since the thirties" are on the horizon as the council looks to slash its spending in the New Year by a massive 90m.

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Government grant cuts, inflationary costs and the financial pressures of a rising birth rate and growing elderly population have combined to leave the council with a 90m funding gap.

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Work is already underway on the 2011-12 council budget and, while decisions will not be taken until early next year, proposals are being considered to plug the hole.

They include:

* Reducing the workforce by up to 3,000 over the next fours years, saving 30m in 2011-12 alone;

* Charging for free events such as Opera in the Park and Party in the Park;

* Increased fees for some services such as home care which could raise an extra 6m income;

* Closing under-used or outdated buildings – including libraries, day centres and possibly some sports centres – saving up to 5m a year;

* Cutting roads spending to "core maintenance only."

The council currently spends 273m a year buying goods and services. It hopes by overhauling the way it buys things, renegotiating contracts and improving bulk buying it could save 10m annually.

Transport costs, currently 35m a year, could be cut by 3m next year by deferring the replacement of vehicles and other measures.

Savings of 90m amount to about 10 per cent of the council's annual net spend.

Coun Keith Wakefield, council leader, left, said: "Economic measures the like of which have not been seen since the 1930s will have to take place across all areas of the council's services in future.

"Inevitably, setting next year's budget will be a very painful process.

"We simply cannot continue to do all the things we do now and some services will be vastly reduced or stopped altogether."

Under the proposals some departments are in line for more money. Adult social care could get over 16m more to help meet rising care costs and children's services is in line for an extra 11.2m to fund work to protect vulnerable youngsters.

Coun Wakefield said: "Our main responsibility is to continue to provide for those people who most need our help and support and this is where we are focussing our efforts, along with as many other front line services as we can."

In a bid to cut the nation's deficit, the Government intends to chop public spending by 81 billion by 2014-15.

The council expects to shed 1,000 jobs next year and does not anticipate the need for voluntary redundancies.

The savings ideas will be discussed by the Executive Board next week and the budget for 2011-12 will be set next February.

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