Consultation launches on Leeds City Council’s 2024/25 budget proposals

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Decision: Leeds Civic Hall.

Leeds residents can have their say on annual budget proposals, which would deliver an estimated further £58.4 million savings, alongside an additional £7.4 million of already agreed savings, in the next financial year has now begun. 

The 2024/25 budget proposals show how the council intends to address the funding gap including a proposed council tax increase of 4.99 per cent (two per cent of which is earmarked for adult social care funding). View the full budget press release outlining proposed building closures, service changes and price increases. 

The online consultation survey is now live at  Leeds City Council Budget Consultation 2024-25  and will run until the end of Wednesday 10 January 2024. The council would like to hear the views of everyone who lives, studies, works in or visits Leeds on how it should continue to fund services. Views and feedback will also be received from a range of stakeholders including councillors, trades unions, business representatives and third sector groups. Staff in council-managed community hubs are available to support people to fill in the survey if needed. 

The survey should take about 10 minutes to complete and every response will be reviewed with the results feeding into the final budget plans that will be available to read in February 2024. 

Pudsey Civic Hall could be closed amid a wide range of city-wide budget cuts set to be introduced by senior Leeds councillors.

Key proposals include:

  • Council staffing levels to reduce by up to 750 full-time equivalent posts by the end of the 2024/25 financial year (the council currently has approximately 3,440 fewer staff than it did in 2010) with ongoing trade union consultation to avoid compulsory redundancies
  • Council tax to increase by 4.99 per cent (with two per cent of this dedicated to support adult social care funding).
  • To explore options to reduce opening hours at community hubs and libraries across the city
  • Review of council-managed children’s centres and Little Owls nurseries, based upon sufficiency need and financial viability

Council leader Cllr James Lewis (Labour) said: “We know some of the proposals we have set out will be unpopular as they will have a challenging impact on people’s lives. As is increasingly being seen around the country, councils have only very difficult choices left to use to balance their budgets, meet the needs of residents and not risk being driven to the point of financial distress. Local government cannot continue in this way, it simply isn’t workable.

“In the immediate short-term, we call on the government to use the upcoming finance settlement to provide the urgent help all councils clearly need, especially in the face of the rising costs and demand in children’s services to help support and protect our most vulnerable children and young people.”

Opposition criticises ruling Labour group

At the December meeting of Leeds City Council’s Executive Board, leader of the opposition, Councillor Alan Lamb lambasted the administration over their budget and spending priorities. 

Noting the council’s financial position, at the meeting Cllr Lamb highlighted a number of areas where he feels the administration may have mixed up their priorities. 

Councillor Alan Lamb (Leader of the opposition Conservative Group) said: “Given the narrative of telling us all how precarious the council’s finances are, I am dumbfounded that not one of the Executive Board members could tell me in the meeting the amount of money that is to be spent on debt next year. I already have the answer – it is over £133m which works out as roughly 20% of the Council’s Net Revenue Budget. Or to put it another way, £1 out of every £5 the administration has to spend will be going on debt and not on services. 

“In my opinion, it is sheer madness then given this context, that the administration is proposing to spend money on a play strategy, while at the same time they are proposing to axe a child abuse and neglect team as part of their budget proposals. It is my view that these priorities are all wrong. 

“And on the report regarding the update surrounding the Education, Health and Care Plan assessment work, I have no doubt PricewaterhouseCoopers will have done an excellent and very professional piece of work. But I do not believe it will have told the Council anything that Elected Members haven’t been saying on this subject for many years, based on the casework from our residents. While I appreciate there may be commercial sensitivities over the exact value, it was also evident that no Executive Board Member had a view of the costs of this work either, which I suspect will run into many thousands of pounds.” 

Follow WLD’s ongoing coverage of council cuts here.

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