Leeds City Council tax hike for care services

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Councillors in Leeds have expressed their support for plans to hike up council tax next year to help cash-strapped social care services.

Members of Leeds City Council’s health scrutiny board unanimously backed bringing in a two per cent precept to raise money for adult social care services (ASC), such as care homes and day centres.

The council is proposing to introduce the precept, suggested by Government, and also increase council tax by the usual maximum of 1.99 per cent - with residents facing a 3.99 per cent council tax rise in total.

Cath Roff, the council’s director of adult social services, told the meeting that the precept would generate around £5.1million a year for ASC services at a time when the department faces £17m of pressures for 2016/17.

Scrutiny chair Coun Peter Gruen said: “I can’t believe anybody would say no, I’m not in favour of that being levied’.”

Earlier it was revealed that the council was budgeting to try to plug an £87m funding gap in 2016 due to anticipated Government core funding cuts. But it has emerged that Government will cut core funding to Leeds further than expected. The council underestimated the cut by £9.5m, so a new budget will be drafted for February.

Doug Meeson, chief finance officer, said: “In terms of initial budget proposals we are £9.5m short of what we had planned. We will need to bring forward a balanced budget.”

The Government’s plan to cut Leeds’ core funding by £34m also means the in-year £2.8m cut to Leeds public health budget, for services like smoking cessation and healthy schools, will be made recurrent - contributing to a £5.3m overall public health cut next year. Ian Cameron, the council’s director of public health, said: “Cutting the public health grant makes no sense.”