Leeds City Council faces “unprecedented” budget cuts, as its spending is set to reduce by more than £100m next year, with hundreds of further job losses expected, writes Richard Beecham.
A report, set to go before the authority’s decision-making executive board next week, shows the authority faces an estimated budget gap of £166m over the next five years, of which £118.8m relates to 2021/22.
The document adds that just over half of this has resulted from the ongoing financial impact of Covid-19.
So far, the council has identified £32m of savings for next year, but this would still leave a funding gap of more than £86m, about which the council is expected to make further announcements later this year.
This is all in addition to a funding gap of £52m the council currently faces for the rest of the 2020/21 financial year, due to extra pressures from Covid-19.
The leader of Leeds City Council has since said the authority was in talks with the government on whether further help could be offered to Leeds.
The report said: “In response to this financial position, the council has carried out a review of its capital programme and established a ‘Financial Challenge’ programme of service reviews to identify savings that will contribute towards closing the estimated budget gap and enable the authority to present a robust, balanced budget position in 2021/22.
“These aim to protect services that support the most vulnerable whilst ensuring that the council becomes more financially resilient and sustainable for the future.”
It added the reviews had so far identified £32.3m potential savings, which is likely to see a loss of 478.4 full-time equivalent staff.
“All efforts will be made to avoid compulsory redundancies,” the document said.
“The results of any such consultation with staff, trade unions, service users and the public will be used to inform the final decision.”
If approved, the proposed cuts would reduce the estimated budget gap for 2021/22 to £86.2m. Further reports are expected to be brought to the council’s executive board in October and November in order to identify proposals to further close the budget gap to enable a balanced budget in 2021/22.
“The updated position, including any further Government announcements, will be reported to this Board in December.”
It added that, while the reviews are ongoing, all “non-essential” capital spend would be placed on hold, with the exception of health and safety and Covid-19-related works, as well as schemes that are partially finished.
The report concluded: “The council faces an unprecedented financial challenge with an estimated budget gap for 2021/22 of £118.76m.
“In response, the authority has carried out a review of its capital programme and established a ‘Financial Challenge’ programme of service reviews to identify savings that will contribute towards closing the estimated budget gap and enable the authority to present a robust, balanced budget position in 2021/22.
“These aim to protect services that support the most vulnerable whilst ensuring that the organisation becomes more financially resilient and sustainable for the future.
“Work continues to identify further savings with proposals to come to this Board in October and November.
“Meaningful consultation will be carried out with staff, trade unions, service users and the public on proposals as required with the results used to inform the decisions taken in respect of Service Reviews.”
Leader of Leeds City Council Judith Blake said:
“In what has been an extremely difficult decade for local authorities, we have proved here in Leeds that we are a prudent, financially well run council.
“The impact of coronavirus has had an enormous impact on our financial position. Not only in terms of the costs to tackle Covid-19, but on many of our revenue streams that help provide the funding we need to fund vital front-line services.
“While welcoming the assistance offered so far by government to meet the costs of coronavirus, it simply does not go far enough when you also consider the significant cuts made to our central grant funding since 2010.
“We are therefore in talks with the government to discuss what else they can do to help because without additional assistance, there is a threat of big cuts to services.
“These financial reports to executive board set out the stark financial position we face, and a number of steps we intend to move forward with to mitigate the impact of the budget gap in the next financial year. We will do everything in our power to ensure that our front-line services supporting the elderly, vulnerable and all those in need continue to be protected.”
The report will go before Leeds City Council executive board members on Thursday, September 24.
Funny how this chestnut keeps resurfacing. I work for LCC and I’m always being told about redundancies and funding gaps but at the same time I’m learning about cycle tracks and mental health initiatives. It baffles the mind. This week I learned about a mental health crisis amongst a minority group and last week it was Barbers who need training to recognise mental health problems. It’s trivial and wasteful. I don’t see the same levels of care directed at supporting the lowest paid council employees who might feel stressed and undervalued by the constant threats to their jobs. Maybe that’s the wrong sort of mental health or the wrong sort of virtue signal. Maybe we could stop Council departments spending money on useless transport tech’ or automatic doors etc. Maybe Get rid of the people who can’t do their jobs. I don’t mean promote them or move them, get rid.
So people’s mental health is ‘trivial and wasteful’? Wow! And aimed at ethnic minorities? Ye gads! Surely not!!!!
Sorry Andy but after reading this comment I feel I’ve just jumped into Doctor Who’s Tardis and gone back in time to the 1970s.
I was also under the impression that the majority of cycle lanes schemes like the Stanningley Road cycle superhighway which were mainly – but not exclusively – funded by central government
I’m sorry you don’t like how I think. Dr-Woke wasn’t part of my childhood so the reference is lost on me. Decisions about how my taxes are spent are my concern Our taxes are spent in the UK not just in Leeds. I do believe that spending on cycle lanes is crazy at a time when we’re still trying to get people back to work and pay the wages of people who are struggling to buy food or pay rent.
We’ve lost a lot of Day Centres for the elderly and Elderly people are losing their homes. We’ve got roads that are years behind schedule for repair and we have waste spending. Contact centres for looked-after children and respite centres for disabled children are closing. I fully understand we’ve had a lockdown and that’s why some work is still outstanding (like the cladding on high rise buildings). There are so many more things to self-promote than woke virtue signalling for one or two groups.
I do believe a lot of emphasis is put on mental health to tick boxes. Mental health is a serious matter and not one to score points over (everyone should get care equally and not when it’s fashionable). Mental health of the elderly seems way down on any priority. Maybe it doesn’t look so good. The mental health of our ex-serviceman who paid their taxes but often leave the armed services with nothing. Not even a home. They should be targeted for support (and not just mental health). We can signal our virtue for one or two groups and waste recourses advertising it and we can build little tracks for cyclists but we also need to care for the people who look to our local authority for help and support and get closures and side-lined instead. .