By David Spereall, local democracy reporting service
A new levy on council suppliers to fund good causes across Leeds has been branded a “cack-handed” and “stealthy” tax, by the city’s opposition leader.
Leeds Conservatives chief Andrew Carter said the new charge was “badly thought out”.
Leeds City Council says the “modest” annual levy on companies it does business with will bring in around £500,000 a year. This money will be used to create a new “social value fund” to aid worthy projects, with local charities and voluntary groups expected to benefit.
The charge will only apply to private sector suppliers, who can opt out of paying if they wish.
But speaking at a meeting of senior councillors on Wednesday, Coun Carter said: “So it’s a tax, basically.
“This is nothing more than a stealthy way of screwing money out of suppliers. You may say it’s a very small amount of money and indeed it is a very small amount of money. But it’s the principle.”
The levy will be capped at £1,250 a year for a business which employs 250 or more people. Firms with between 11 and 249 staff will be charged £500, with suppliers who employ 10 or fewer people exempt from paying.
Liberal Democrat group leader Stewart Golton also questioned the scheme, saying leaders needed to “think again” and come up with a more “sustainable” model.
However, the council’s ruling Labour group said suppliers had been consulted over the charge and that feedback had been positive.
Neil Evans, the council’s director of resources, said firms themselves would benefit from paying in.
Mr Evans said: “Through a very modest charge, because of the volume of contracts we have, it turns out to be a pretty tidy sum with which we can do useful things.
“It’s a very innovative and convenient way which works for both parties.”
But in response, Coun Carter described the scheme as “cack-handed”:
He said: “The road to hell is saved with good intentions. There are good intentions here, but it is the road to hell. It’s badly thought out, badly dreamt up and I’m astonished you’ve even brought it.”
However, the levy was voted through by Labour’s frontbench.
The council’s deputy leader, Coun Debra Coupar said: “I’m disappointed by the comments we’ve received today. This is an attempt for us to build a social value fund that would help to tackle poverty and inequality.”