Multi-million pound overspend continues to grow at Leeds City Council as decisions on spending cuts loom

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A multi-million pound overspend continues to grow as decisions loom over spending cuts to balance the council’s budget.

Leeds City Council will have to dig into reserves to break even this financial year, leading to further pressure on next year’s budget and beyond, councillors have been told.

A report to the executive board meeting on Wednesday (February 7) said the council was forecasting a general fund overspend of £39m, up from £35.3m in December.

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Deputy council leader Debra Coupar has said that measures are in place to reduce Leeds City Council's overspend, but the use of reserves would be needed to balance the 2023/24 budget. Photo: National World.Deputy council leader Debra Coupar has said that measures are in place to reduce Leeds City Council's overspend, but the use of reserves would be needed to balance the 2023/24 budget. Photo: National World.
Deputy council leader Debra Coupar has said that measures are in place to reduce Leeds City Council's overspend, but the use of reserves would be needed to balance the 2023/24 budget. Photo: National World. | National World

Much of the financial shortfall is being caused by the rising cost of caring for vulnerable children in the city. Almost £60m must be slashed from the overall budget this financial year.

Deputy council leader Debra Coupar said measures were in place to reduce the overspend, but the use of reserves would be needed to balance the 2023/24 budget.

She said: “It should noted by executive board that this will impact on the resources available for 2024/25 and future years.”

Job losses, new parking charges and building closures are expected as part of wide-ranging budget measures at the authority. A council tax rise of 4.98 per cent has been proposed.

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Coun Alan Lamb, leader of the Conservative group, asked whether the budget would remain balanced at the start of the new financial year.

He said: “It’s not good news, is it? Are we confident that in month one next year we are still going to be reporting a balanced budget, or can we already predict that there’s going to be an overspend when we come back in March?”

Coun Coupar, executive member for resources, said: “We are not unique in the country in terms of the pressure for funding around children’s services and the inadequacy of funding from the government to allow us to do that job.”

The council’s proposed budget for 2024/25 will be debated at a full council meeting on February 21.

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A report to the executive board meeting said there was an estimated a budget gap of £64.6m in 2025/26 and a further £47.1m in 2026/27.

Councils must present a balanced budget to avoid issuing a Section 114 notice, effectively declaring bankruptcy.

The report said: “It needs to be recognised that we are not funded to provide all the functions we currently do, and so future service provision must be provided within the limited resources available.”

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