Families in Leeds are being warned to brace themselves for another difficult year as the city enters its ninth year of living under austerity.
Leeds City Council will have to make £38m of savings in the coming financial year as it tries to balance its books.
At next week’s first full council meeting of the year, a council tax increase of 4.99 per cent is set to be agreed.
This includes a three per cent social care precept, and equates to £74 being added to bills for families in an average band D property.
Bills could rise further once the police and fire authority element of the total is finalised later.
And next month, the council’s full budget proposals are expected to be rubber-stamped.
City leaders have pledged to continue to protect the most vital frontline services, but as our budget breakdown (below) shows, no area of key services has been spared for savings.
The city’s overall revenue budget for the new financial year - which starts on April 1 - is £506m.
This represents the council’s general fund, the money it will have coming in or needs to find for spending on key services.
This includes income from council tax, business rates and the Government’s annual revenue grant. It does not include rent from council housing tenants.
This year, Leeds City Council’s Government grant has been cut by 28 percent to £18.5m, adding to the £239m already slashed since 2010.
There will be a further shortfall of £14m based on the additional government “multi-year” settlement.
Although the hole in the coffers is offset by a £27.5m boost from business rates and the council tax rise, the council’s accountants are hard at work trying to find £38.2m of savings by March 2019.
A report prepared as part of the draft budget explains: “The financial climate for local government continues to present significant risks to the council’s priorities and ambitions.
“The council continues to make every effort possible to protect the front line delivery of services, and whilst we have been able to balance the budget each year since 2010, have continued to deliver a broad range of services despite declining income, and have avoided large scale compulsory redundancies...the position is becoming increasingly challenging to manage.”
The report acknowledges that “the council will need to work differently, helping people to look after themselves, others and the places they live and work by considering the respective responsibilities of the ‘state’ and the ‘citizen’.”
THE KEY NUMBERS
Leeds City Council’s total revenue (income) budget for 2018/19: £506.17million
Total savings council needs to find by March 2019 to balance books: £38.24m
(£4m of the earmarked savings will come from reserves)
Cuts/savings by major department:
Adults and Public Health (eg,older people’s care): £10.8m
Children and Families (eg, schools, young people in care): £5m
City Development (eg, regeneration, transport/infrastructure projects, tourism): £4.9m
Resources and Housing eg, (council housing, managing council buildings): £6.5m
Communities and Environment (eg, bin collections, council-run parks/attractions, parking charges): £3.2m
Strategic and Central budget: £1m
Proposed council tax rise in 2018/19: 4.99 per cent
Increase in bill for average band D home in Leeds: £74
Biggest chunk of spend: children/adults services 65.1% of total revenue
Core funding down by £239m from 2010 up to the 2017/18 budget.
Planned investment in city from 2018 to 2021: £1.2bn
Council jobs (full time equivalent) cut: 53 (much less than the 400 anticipated)
WHICH SERVICES MIGHT THE SAVINGS PLAN AFFECT?
The budget proposals include a raft of suggested measures to shave costs and increase savings potential across a variety of council run services.
Referred to in council speak as “efficiencies”, the proposed list includes a review of “care packages” for adults in social care, which can include older people, saving £3.5m potentially. It also includes an aim to implement “improved income collection from community care services”, to the value of £1m.
A number of price rises in council run services are suggested, including a drive to create increased “income opportunities” at the city’s museums and parks.
Some of the other ideas proposed include a £500,000 savings plan in the city’s waste management budget, with the cost of replacement bins and landfill site maintenance all under the microscope.
A suggested car parking charge hike at Woodhouse Lane car park would mean the daily rate has gone up 50 per cent in three years.
Also included - as previously reported by the YEP - are a street light switch off expansion, a reduction in council parking wardens and savings on the hire of porta cabins used for elections.
LONG LIST OF AREAS WHERE NEW CASH MUST BE FOUND
This year, Leeds City Council will have all out local elections, with all of the city’s 99 council seats up for grabs. The total cost for the running of the elections is estimated at £1.1m.
The additional cost is just one of a list of new funds that the council has to find this year.
This includes £600,000 to boost the local authority’s minimum pay rate for staff, to add to £4.7m needed to implement the National Living Wage.
It also needs to earmark £3m extra for children in care and around £20m in total for various strands of its adult social care services.
Another £200,000 has been set aside in the projected budget to spend on May’s Tour de Yorkshire.
And interestingly, despite the city’s hopes for the 2023 European Capital of Culture title being dashed, £400,000 has still been earmarked for “cultural legacy” work in the coming year.
COUNCIL LEADER PLEDGES TO PROTECT SERVICES FOR THE VULNERABLE
Councillor Judith Blake, Leader of Leeds City Council, said: “We are now seeing the impact of eight years of Conservative austerity, with vital public services such as the NHS, transport, the police, and council services all severely affected.
“The council has seen its budget cut by 40 per cent since 2010 and has to find a further saving of £38m next year.
“As a council we are determined to protect services for vulnerable people as much as possible, so have increased the percentage of the council budget spent on adult’s and children’s social care to over 65 per cent.
“This has ensured all children’s centres in Leeds remain open and we have funded new Recovery Hubs to help older people return home following hospital, to reduce re-admissions and ease pressures on the NHS.
“However, to continue to protect these services we have to make sensible efficiency savings that prioritise those most in need, as well as increase some charges and council tax.
“We are seeing a rising demand for social care services for older people and children, but this isn’t just in Leeds as nationally there is now a £2bn funding gap for children’s social care. That’s why it was so disappointing that the Chancellor totally ignored this issue in his budget last month.”
Leeds City Council’s full council meeting next Wednesday will agree the final council tax rate for the coming financial year.
The draft budget proposals will be voted on at February’s meeting.