No U-turn on tax and rent hikes as Leeds budget is rubber-stamped

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LEEDS council tax bills will go up by two-percent this year, with council housing rents and service charges also rising by almost six per cent each.

The hikes were approved, as widely expected, by the city’s councillors at a full council budget-stamping meeting last night.

Opposition politicians from the Conservative and Lib Deb groups had put forward 19 proposed amendments to the budget proposals - including calls for a U-turn on charging for council-owned car parking in the city centre at evenings and weekends.

However all but one amendment fell, with the only success being a plan to boost council house building by borrowing £4m.

Other ideas that were torpedoed included cutting sickness pay for council workers, and slashing trade union convening subsidies.

A proposal to provide free vitamins to the city’s young children from six months to four years drew particular derision from the chamber, and was branded “wacky”.

Leeds will have a total revenue budget of £565.77m this year, after £36m of Government funding was slashed.

In a detailed speech, council leader Keith Wakefield admitted difficult decisions had to be made, and that the city is facing the impact of “one of the most difficult times for local Government since the 1930s”.

However he paid tribute to council staff, saying that despite many job cuts and increasing pressures, 40 per cent of employees had not had a single day off in the past 12 months.

He was also damning in his critique of Government funding allocation, telling the chamber: “We can no longer sustain things under this current financial blitz on councils”.

Coun John Procter, deputy leader of the Conservative group, said his party had put forward a “deliberately very modest budget amendment” to freeze council tax for the next two years, and accused the ruling administration of making a “real mess” with some of its recent decisions.

Despite lengthy and lively debate, no councillor voted against the budget proposals.

Of 95 councillors present, 61 voted yes, and 34 abstained.

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