Council services face axe, as tax and rents rise amid funding crisis

5
1702
WLD cutswatch

By Don Mort

Council services face millions of pounds in budget cuts after spending plans were agreed for the coming financial year.

Job losses, building closures and new parking charges will go ahead as cash-strapped Leeds City Council seeks to balance its books.

Council tax will rise by 4.98 per cent and rents by 7.7 per cent after the budget for 2024/25 was debated at a full council meeting.

The council needs to make £63.9m in savings by March 2025 in order to balance its budget and avoid issuing a section 114 notice, effectively declaring bankruptcy.

And further cuts are expected in future years as the council faces further budget gaps of £64.6m in 2025/26 and £47.1m in 2026/27.

Council bosses have warned that the authority cannot continue to provide all its current services following cuts in central government funding.

Council leader James Lewis said: “Today this administration is putting forward a balanced budget, which is a remarkable achievement given the national financial crisis facing local government.

“The huge scale of the problem is well known. There is no magic wand, instead it will be a long road to improve things.”

Conservative group leader Alan Lamb criticised budget decisions by the council, including spending on the 2023 official year of culture.

He said: “He portrays us as the victims of circumstances while never taking responsibility for the poor decisions he and the administration have taken. They promised to unleash culture. Instead they unleashed an enormous bill and a package of cuts to services and the introduction of fees and charges for things people have never had to pay for before. It doesn’t have to be this way.”

Liberal Democrat group leader Stewart Golton told the meeting: “Right now, thanks to decisions that this administration has made or has planned, the people that I represent feel like the receivers have been sent into our community, and we’re rapidly being liquidated.”

Parking charges will be introduced at beauty spots including Otley Chevin and Golden Acre Park under the budget plans. 

The parking charge plans faced public opposition when surveys were carried out. Coun Barry Anderson, Conservative member for Adel and Wharefedale, said: “Eighty per cent of people said no. But this council said, ‘Yes, we know better than the public out there’.”

Pudsey Civic Hall. Photo: Ivor Hughes

Pudsey Civic Hall faces closure to save cash, despite making a modest financial surplus and being used by thousands of people a year. A final decision on the future of the Civic won’t be confirmed until March.

Coun Andrew Carter, Conservative member for Calverley and Farsley, said: “It is a success story, not a facility that’s due for closure.”

Councillors debated 63 amendments from opposition parties which would have cancelled parts of the savings programme. All the amendments were voted down.

Deputy council leader Debra Coupar said: “What I’ve heard today from the opposition is just short term solutions to 14 years of austerity. We have to take tough decisions to balance the budget.”

The council has already reduced staffing by more than 2,500 full time posts since 2010, with a further 750 expected to go.

5 COMMENTS

  1. If the council had an action plan in place to recover the £62 millions owed by Council Tax defaulters, then all these cuts wouldn’t be necessary!

  2. Well done Leeds City Council you are slowly destroying this once great city of Leeds.
    Hundreds of council jobs to be cut, I bet none will be from the upper management and councilors, services which we pay for in our council tax being reduced even further.
    People are being charged for enjoying the outdoors in our parks, and more fantasy projects being financed in order to waste more money so they can blame the government for not giving them more money to squander

  3. Shocking that the tories should have an ideological hatred of local democracy to the extent that for 14 years they have been cutting and starving such Councils (in the North) of funds. Remember the video where Sunak boasted about diverting tax money to rich areas of the country?

    • It’s the labour councils that plead poverty, but they are their own worst enemy by squandering money on fantasy projects salary hikes and pension pot contributions, so they can blame the government for the lack of funds

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.