Budget day in Leeds: Opposition parties to present 21 ideas to help council avert financial '˜black hole'
Leeds City Council's two main opposition parties will today (Wednesday) lay out a 21-point action plan which they say will help the authority balance its books, do the best by taxpayers - and avert a looming budget 'black hole'.
The leaders of the Conservative and Lib Dem groups at Leeds Civic Hall are proposing a range of 21 measures between them which will be presented at today’s crunch budget setting meeting for the 2018/19 year, which kicks off at 1pm.
The ideas come as suggested amendments to the council’s initial budget, and include a number of new initiatives such as kerbside glass recycling, additional food waste rounds, the introduction of more environmentally friendly LED street lighting, a new housing company to deliver affordable homes for first time buyers, a £1m investment in culture to develop the city of culture project, new funding for ‘changing places’ disabled toilet facilities, the scrapping of the charges for so called inert waste and a further £1m for the city’s neighbourhood networks who do such valuable work for older and more vulnerable residents throughout the city.
A 4.99 per cent council tax increase is expected to be rubber-stamped tomorrow. The council’s total baseline budget for the year is almost £511 million.
Councillor Andrew Carter, leader of the Conservative group, said: “The proposals contained in our amendments offer a better deal for Leeds residents in that we introduce new services that meet the needs of residents in the coming year.
“We believe that with a £511m revenue budget the council is in a position to improve services to Leeds residents and our amendments seek to begin that process.
“We are also extremely concerned about debt levels at the council.
“Including PFI debts the council has around £2.5bn of debt and we are concerned that if the administration is not careful, these debt levels could become unsustainable as we move beyond 2021 and they could be facing a budgetary black hole – we are therefore asking for more monitoring and scrutiny of debt levels at the council.”
COUNCIL LEADER SAYS:
Councillor Judith Blake, leader of Leeds City Council, said today’s meeting “will include new proposals to tackle some of the significant challenges residents in Leeds face as a result of eight years of damaging Conservative austerity.”
KEY TALKING POINT
Recycling is likely to prove a big talking point at the budget setting meeting, featuring - as it does - heavily in both the Tories’ and the Lib Dems’ amendment lists.
The Lib Dem group is pushing for glass recycling, and it also wants to build a £3 million anaerobic digester which will process waste from new citywide food waste collections and will “kick-start” a recovery in Leeds’s recently falling recycling performance.
Group leader Stewart Golton said: “Our budget amendment provides the investment Leeds needs to bring recycling services up to date and create a greener city.”