Leeds faces up to ‘brutal’ council cuts

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Leeds City Council leader Keith Wakefield has said the authority must make “grim choices” as it tries to find £76.1 million of budget savings next year.

Coun Wakefield laid the blame firmly at the door of the Government as the council said its funding from Whitehall would be cut by more than £46 million.

Budget proposals published today will show the authority is considering raising council house rents by 2.88 per cent while nursery fees look set to rise by more than five per cent.

The plans include a significant cut in the amount spent on repairing the city’s roads and reductions in the opening hours for council facilities.

A review of community centres is taking place and there will be changes to the way the authority delivers services for adults, such as care for the elderly, and children.

The authority will also consult on plans to reduce the number of staff it employs by 475.

And the amount the council gives to arts organisations in the city looks set to be cut by a fifth.

Leeds has already cut £250 million from its budget over the last four years but Coun Wakefield said this year would be the toughest year yet because the authority was reaching the limit of savings that could be achieved through efficiency measures.

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He said: “I warned in October the budget for next year was going to be the toughest yet and the proposals being put forward are as brutal as I feared.

“Local authorities simply have nowhere else to go now but make the grim choices they have been avoiding for the last four years.”

He added: “We have tried as hard as possible to limit the impact on frontline services but it’s unavoidable that whatever we do now is going to be very painful so it is vitally important that people give us their views so we can find out their priorities.”

Coun Wakefield said projects like the arena, Trinity Leeds and the Victoria Gate shopping development showed the authority was committed to doing what it can to improve the city while facing a budget squeeze.

Despite the squeeze, an additional £500,000 has been found to help children and young people at risk of harm.

No proposals have yet been set out on council tax although the Government is likely to again cap the amount all local authorities can increase their bills.

Councils across Yorkshire are looking to save millions to try and balance their books next year.

Sheffield has said it needs to find £60 million in savings while Kirklees is looking to cut its budget by £30 million.

Local Government Local Government Minister Kris Hopkins said: “Every bit of the public sector needs to do their bit to pay off the deficit left by the last administration including local government which accounts for a quarter of all public spending.

“Since 2010 this Government has delivered a fair settlement to every part of the country while giving them greater financial independence so they can deliver sensible savings while protecting front-line services.

“Leaving aside schools due to the move to academies, Leeds’s spending has actually increased under this Government.”

Leeds City Council leader: Public finances ‘to change beyond recognition’