Services at risk warns city leader as bills look set to rise

Keith Wakefield
Keith Wakefield
Have your say

LEEDS COUNCIL leader Keith Wakefield has warned the city could soon struggle to deliver essential services as he set out plans to raise council taxes and council rents to balance the books at Civic Hall.

If approved by the council, rents will go up by close to six per cent from April while council tax will increase by just under two per cent.

That would take the bill for a property in band D to around £1,342 while band A, the cheapest homes, would pay around £895. It will be the first rise since 2010.

The council will also begin a fresh round of savings worth £50m which will include the loss of 200 jobs.

Coun Wakefield said the Government had cut £95 million from its budget in the last three years and accused Ministers of giving authorities in wealthier areas of the south a better deal.

He said: “This is a really tough year. Had we got a reassurance that future years would be better for us I am sure we would take a longer debate and discussion about the rise.

“The sad fact is that we face a further 15 per cent cut in our grant next year which will make Leeds, like every big authority and city, really question whether it can continue to deliver some of the most important, vital and statutory services in our city.”

Coun Wakefield acknowledged rising rents and council tax would be an added pressure on families already seeing an increase in other household bills.

But he said the authority would spend on the money on “the priorities people expect us to have”.

The council will spend an extra £4.3m on adult social care and £4.5m on helping children in care. Leeds’s 57 children’s centres will also be protected.

Money raised from increased rents will help fund investment in council houses.

More details are expected to emerge today as the full budget proposals are published.

The Government is offering extra money to councils which freeze their council tax but Leeds calculated it could raise £2m extra by increasing bills.

The council is also concerned that the grant on offer from the Government could disappear in future.

The planned 1.99 per cent rise is the maximum allowed under Government rules. Councillors would need to hold a public vote for a bigger rise.

Local Government Secretary Eric Pickles said: “We have given extra funding to town halls to help freeze council tax and handed local residents new rights to veto big local tax hikes, so local people have the final say on the amount they pay.

“Since 2010, council tax bills have been cut by 10 per cent in real terms across England and people haven’t been facing the threat of soaring bills.”

Double boost for Leeds city centre cultural and heritage buildings