Three more Leeds community centres and an extra 199 full-time posts are among the latest proposed cuts for next year’s Leeds City Council budget, writes Richard Beacham.
Proposals for the future of Leeds City Council services have gone before its decision-making Executive Board today, as the authority attempts to plug an anticipated £118.8m financial shortfall – caused partly by pressures from Covid-19 – for next year.
The report comes on top of other savings proposals during September and October, and shows a further £17.6m of potential cuts, which include an expected reduction in the workforce of 199 full-time posts.
This brings the total anticipated reduction in staff to 816 full-time equivalent.
Other proposals included ending childcare at Firthfields Little Owls site and moving Children’s Centre Family Services from Garforth Academy to this building. It also proposes the closure of three community buildings: Lewisham Park Community Centre, Morley; Allerton Bywater Youth Centre and Windmill Youth Centre, Rothwell.
There are also plans to sell further council-owned buildings, including – as revealed by WLD on Sunday – historic Abbey Mills in Kirkstall.
Presenting the plans to the meeting, council deputy leader James Lewis (Lab) said:
“Given the scale of the savings, we are in very uncertain times overall. We don’t know how long the impact of Covid will be.
“We need to be clear that the budget position we put forward is a deliverable budget. Items that require consultation we are bringing prior to setting the budget.
“This is one piece of the jigsaw towards setting the budget.”
Leeds City Council’s Conservative group leader Andrew Carter (Cons, Calverley & Farsley) said:
“This paper narrows the funding gap, but some of the proposals, quite frankly, are staggering.”
The council’s Liberal Democrats group leader Coun Stewart Golton (Rothwell) said:
“In terms of the context of how the decisions are being made, I am impressed the council is bringing forward, with so much transparency, the areas they are looking at.
“But how is the council demonstrating it is making meaningful thinking time available to reduce the impact of those cuts?”
Speaking after the meeting, leader of Leeds City Council Judith Blake (Lab) said:
“The impact of coronavirus combined with national reductions to local government budgets over the last decade has been of a scale nobody could have predicted. There is no doubt that without further national funding there is a major risk to the services and facilities the council offers to the people of Leeds.
“We will make every effort to protect frontline services and we will do everything possible to not make compulsory redundancies. However, some incredibly tough decisions now need to be taken because of the impact of the pandemic following a decade of austerity.
“We continue to engage and speak with government regarding this issue and we are pressing the case on behalf of the people of Leeds. If the government listens and supports the council with more funding then the financial gap in next year’s budget will become smaller and the impact on council services will reduce.”