This will affect hundreds of job roles in the council, with services likely to be scaled back with a dramatic immediacy never seen before in our lifetimes.
The cuts are partly due to extra costs and loss of income caused by the Covid-19 pandemic. Councils, unlike other areas of the public sector, are not allowed to run at a loss, meaning they must balance budgets within the year. This, says Leeds City Council, leaves it with little flexibility to withstand the blow from Covid-19.
The authority had been hoping for the Government to come in with a last-minute rescue package to help maintain services, but found out the week before Christmas that only an extra £0.5m would be made available to help plug the financial gap for 2021/22.
We’ve been through the council’s financial proposals for the next municipal year, and have listed some of the cuts faced by each council department below.
ADULTS AND HEALTH
When added together, the council’s total proposed cuts to its adults and health department comes to more than £18m for just one year – nearly a tenth of the department’s entire budget.
Anticipated cuts to services within the department include more than £4m on commissioned services for working age adults. This includes a rejig of health funding, day provision and reviews into social work value for money assessments.
The council also plans to raise nearly half a million pounds recovering unpaid care costs from clients.
A further £2.4m will be saved due to a reduced demand for places in elderly care homes due to the effects of Covid-19.
It added: “The first wave of the Covid pandemic disproportionally impacted old and vulnerable people. The numbers of people supported in care homes fell substantially in March and April 2020, and demand for care home placements has been slow to recover.
“Whilst this trend has to some extent been offset by increased demands for care being provided in people’s own homes, overall there has been a rebasing of these demand budgets as a result.
“Whilst this is a best estimate of the rebasing of the budget, this position assumes that there is currently no significant level of unmet need masked by changes to lifestyles during the pandemic.”
A further £420,000 is expected to be raised by decommissioning two residential care homes – Homelea House in Rothwell and Richmond House in Farsley.
Around £1.2m is expected to be cut by making a “variety of staffing reductions” – likely to result in 38 job losses.
CHILDREN AND FAMILIES
A total of £7.12m of cuts and 47 jobs are set to go from the Children and Families directorate – again, nearly 10 percent of the department’s total budget.
Tens of thousands of pounds are expected to be saved through “automation of back office ordering and payments”, while more than half a million pounds is expected to be saved by deleting 15 job vacancies across the department.
An extra £1.7m is being sought in “appropriate health funding”, while £500,000 is expected to be raised from the Early Leavers Initiative – for which another 13 experienced staff are likely to leave.
The authority also believes it can save £230,000 with a “proposal to cease some contracts”.
Contributing to the savings is an extra £1m coming from central government to support unaccompanied asylum-seeking children.
The council’s City Development department aims to cut £9.7m from its budget, along with a mammoth 176 full time equivalent jobs.
Nearly £1m is expected to be raised from reductions in the council’s “core office base” and further cutting of direct property costs.
A 15 percent reduction in grants to the Leeds Grand Theatre, Opera North, Northern Ballet, Leeds Playhouse and the Henry Moore institute is expected to save £227,000.
A further £88,000 is expected to be saved from the scrapping of the annual Christmas lights events, as well as no more support for bi-annual international football screenings in Millennium Square – meaning England’s appearances in the Euros and World Cups will no longer be screened.
The council will cease its funding to the Yorkshire Sport foundation, as well as its partnership with British Cycling, including the annual “Let’s Ride” event.
It also listed a 15 percent reduction in grant to Leeds Culture Trust (Leeds 2023).
The document added: “This will contribute a total saving of £1.35m over three years. The Trust will still aim for a transformational cultural year as a pillar of the post-Covid Leeds and West Yorkshire economic recovery, and is committed to attracting a further £20m of investment to the project and the city.”
Consultation is set to begin on an annual £3 charge for the young people’s Breezecard, while cutting opening hours at Lotherton Hall and Thwaite Mills Museum. Yeadon Tarn Sailing centre will also be closed under the plans, while “operating efficiencies” will also be sought at the John Charles Centre for Sport.
COMMUNITIES AND ENVIRONMENT
Nearly £7m of cuts are expected to be made from Communities and Environment directorate, made up largely of a greater number of smaller savings.
One of which includes increasing charges for replacement bins (£110,000), increasing the commuter tariff at Woodhouse Lane Car Park by 50p (£100,000), with additional income from on-street parking tariffs (£100,000) and bus lane enforcement (£50,000).
An increase in the amount raised through a price rise in bereavement services is expected to hit £220,000.
A total of 54 full time equivalent jobs are set to go from the department, with half a million pounds expected to be raised from an early leavers scheme – which will account for the loss of 16 posts.
The closure of Otley household waste site (£110,000), West Leeds Country Park Visitor Centre (£90,000), half of Leeds’s Bowling Greens (£83,000) is also part of the proposals. The closure of three community centres – Allerton Bywater, Lewisham (Morley) and Windmill Youth Centre – is expected to claw back £200,000.
RESOURCES AND HOUSING
This department is set to see the deepest cuts, with cuts of £14.7m and 420 full time equivalent staff.
Staffing reductions include areas like human resources (11 Full time equivalent); Revenues, benefits and council tax (10 FTE); Business Support Centre (22 FTE); Legal services (5 FTE), Civic Enterprise Leeds (54 FTE). Meanwhile, plans to “modernise” the council’s Business Administration Service and Digital Information service is likely to save the authority nearly £4.5m and account for 158 job losses.
A rise of 4p for school meals prices is expected to contribute an extra £300,000 a year to council coffers, while nearly half a million pounds is set to be saved on fleet services.