No U-turns as Leeds City Council budget is stamped

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It’s billed as the ultimate financial debate affecting Leeds taxpayers, when key spending decisions for the coming year are argued out and rubber-stamped.

But there were no shock U-turns for householders last night, as Leeds City Council voted through its financial plan for the 2015/16 year.

An expected 1.99 per cent rise in council tax was finalised, as was a 2.88 per cent hike in council housing rents. Council tenants were also hit with an increase in garage rents to £7.39 a week.

Opposition councillors had put forward 11 amendments to the budget proposals – including calls from the Tories to scrap the council tax rise and slash trade union subsidies, and Lib Dem calls to provide free vitamins for young children and dump the city’s street light switch-off scheme.

However all but one amendment fell down.

There was a small victory for the Green group, who won a pledge of £50,000 to help set up new community shops selling usable out-of-date food and help deal with rising poverty in the city.

In the final show of hands, 87 of the total 99 councillors voted. Sixty-one voted yes, 20 abstained and six voted no.

In his keynote speech, council leader Keith Wakefield paid tribute to families for their “resilience” in the face of brutal Government cuts. But he stressed the council’s pledge to spend 60 per cent of its budget on children’s services, the elderly and the disabled proved its “commitment to care, and compassion to match its economic ambition”.

The lively debate veered several times into political mud-slinging and heckling on a General Election-centred theme. It prompted one councillor to describe the meeting as “political pantomime”, but one where there was broad agreement.