Words: Richard Beecham
Additional reporting: John Baron
£118m is set to be cut from Leeds City Council’s budget next year.
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 £500,000 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.
“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 cutting 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 council funding for the annual Christmas lights events in town centres and communities across Leeds (currently held in Armley Bramley, Farsley, Kirkstall, Pudsey and others) as well as discontinuing support for bi-annual international football screenings in Millennium Square.
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 (for the Leeds 2023 city of culture celebration).
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 in Pudsey Park (£90,000), and half of Leeds’s bowling greens (£83,000) are also part of the proposals.
In West Leeds, greens can be found in Armley Park, Bramley Park, Stanningley Park, Calverley Victoria Park, Farsley Westroyd Park, New Farnley Park, New Wortley Recreation Ground, Western Flatts Park in Wortley, Burley Park, Pudsey Park and Tyersal Park. It’s still to be decided which greens will be axed.
The closure of three community centres – Allerton Bywater, Lewisham (Morley) and Windmill Youth Centre – is expected to claw back £200,000.
The opening hours and staffing rotas within Community Hub / Library provision across the city will also be reviewed, with trade union consultation on staffing reductions. Hubs are in Pudsey, Bramley, Armley, Calverley, and Farsley.
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.
The authority also hopes to carry out ‘efficiencies’ across venues, including Pudsey Civic Hall.
A report which went before councillors in January 2020 said the authority was expected to raise around £95m by selling dozens of sites across the city between 2019 and 2022.
In addition to sites already sold in 2019, such as the former Burley Library in Cardigan Road and the former Wortley High School, it listed sites including the former Holt Park District Centre, Otley Civic Centre and Abbey Mills in Kirkstall for “disposal” over the next couple of years.
In September WLD called on the council to be ‘open and transparent’ over selling well-known community buildings.
West Leeds Dispatch is monitoring cuts in West Leeds via our Cutswatch series here.
In the map below we are chronicling the proposed cuts revealed so far in West Leeds and have put them in one easy-to-follow map.
Simply click and hold on the interactive map below to navigate around it, and click on the different pins in the map to show more details:
What do opposition councillors say?
The leader of the Conservative Group on Leeds City Council, Cllr Andrew Carter, has said the £118m deficit is “partly self-inflicted”.
Cllr Carter said that while some of the shortfall was due to extra pressures and lost revenue caused by Covid-19, he added that the council had only itself and “poor financial management” to blame for some of the financial black hole.
He pointed to ‘pre-existing pressures linked in part to debt management that are not related to Covid-19’.
- Leeds residents can have their say in an online consultation over the proposed budget cuts here.
- To look at the proposed budget in full, read the 16 December Executive Board agenda here at item 96.