Leeds City Council is drafting in 100 new in-house ‘building services’ staff to take on work that would otherwise have been done by external contractors.
The move- which comes in the wake of the collapse of major contractor Carillion - has been revealed as part of finalised budget proposals for 2018/19, which will go to Leeds City Council’s executive board next week.
Since initial plans were published in December, the council has been told its funding from government under the provisional local government finance settlement has been reduced by £14.1m, as anticipated.
However, factors such as nationally-negotiated staff pay awards proposals and a successful bid to keep 100% of business rates have now been factored in and the budget has been revised to reflect these changes.
The council’s budget will now go UP £18.2m from last year.
And, in a move which the authority has itself described as “bold”, the council will now “use local authority expertise to spend less and find new sources of income”.
“There is a new plan to take on around 100 new staff in Leeds Building Services to do work that previously would have been done by external contractors, “the council announced in a press release,
“The expansion would increase overall numbers of council staff by 59, since they are reducing elsewhere, in the coming year.”
The council says “other similar innovations” are already used in catering, schools support and other council in-house services, with some of them trading their skills outside “to help offset shrinking budgets”.
The council’s cabinet will hear next week that overall, the net revenue budget - how much the authority needs for the coming year - has been set at £510.9m, up by £18.2m from last year. Supporting adults’ and children’s services will account for 63.4 per cent of this spending.
Subject to any increase in precepts for fire and police services, a proposed council tax rise of 4.99 per cent is planned, comprising an increase in standard council tax of 2.99 per cent with a further 2 per cent adult social care precept.
The amended proposals take into account the confirmation that the Government has accepted an application from the Leeds City Region business rates pool, of which the council is a member, to keep 100% of business rates in return for forgoing revenue support grant cash. This will be on a one-year pilot basis.
Meanwhile, a combination of reduced core funding and cost pressures means that the council will still have to find £33.9m of savings by March 2019. Overall it will have seen its budgets in recent years shrink by £267m by 2020.
Leeds City Council leader Judith Blake said: “After many years of doing everything within our power to make our budget balance in the face of sustained reductions to funding we have reached a point where further efficiencies are hard to find.
“We are absolutely committed to protecting frontline services, particularly for the growing numbers of vulnerable people who need our care most. To balance those burgeoning costs, we continue to look at ways to make the most of our limited funds and the investment in staff for Leeds Building Services is a great example of that.
“While we welcome the opportunity to invest all income from business rates locally we do need longer-term certainty to enable us to gain the greatest benefit through a proper planned approach to that investment.”
The Leeds City Council Executive Board meets on February 7 at Leeds Civic Hall.