Leeds City Council has warned it is facing a “perilous financial position” due to the impact of the Covid-19 lockdown, and has urged the Government to provide support to avoid the authority as it is being forced to make “big cuts to services”, writes Richard Beecham.
The Leader of the authority has claimed the cost of coronavirus is set to hit £200m, adding that no further government help would mean having to cut services during the current financial year.
Leeds has received government funding of £43.7m towards those costs from a pot of £3.2bn, but the Local Government Association last month estimated a further £6bn would be needed to support councils across the country in this financial year alone.
The leader of Leeds City Council Judith Blake commented on documents outlining the situation, which are set to go before the authority’s decision-making Executive Board next week. She said:
“(They) show the massive impact coronavirus has had on our city, something which no-one could plan for and which has left us facing a financial challenge of unprecedented proportions.
“Without urgent government support, there is a very real threat of big cuts to council services that many people take for granted.
“Over the last 10 years the council has managed to sensibly reduce spending in line with the budget cuts we have faced. Working with all our partners and the trade unions we were able to reduce the impact of cuts on the city, but the financial challenge posed by coronavirus is on a different scale altogether.
“We are therefore calling on the government for more financial support or clarity on flexible options which may be available to help us find solutions so we can continue to support and protect the most vulnerable members of our communities – who rely on our services now more than ever.
“The situation is clearly very serious. I hope the government hears us and acts so the council can protect services for the people of Leeds.”
It follows warnings from Coun Blake made a month ago, when she repeated the call to national government to underwrite extra spending and loss of earnings faced by local authorities.
Unlike other areas of the public sector, such as the NHS and national government, councils have a legal obligation to balance their budgets each year.
The reports will be discussed by the council’s executive board at its meeting to be held online from 1pm on Wednesday 24 June.