Words: Richard Beecham, local democracy reporter
Leeds City Council’s agreed budget for the coming year will affect hundreds of job roles in the authority, with services scaled back as the city struggles to come to terms with extra costs and loss of income caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.
Unlike other areas of the public sector, councils 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, as well as existing financial pressures on the authority.
We’ve been through the council’s financial proposals for the next municipal year, and have listed some of the cuts faced by council departments below.
Communities and Environment
This directorate is facing a net decrease of £1.4m which, although small compared to other areas of council spending, contains some major savings.
Charges for residents to replace black and brown bins will be increased by £4.60, expected to bring in an extra £110,000. Charges for bulky waste collections will increase from £20 to £30 – and are expected to generate an additional £70,000.
Bereavement fees will be increased by five per cent, which is estimated to increase council income by £367,000 a year. A reduction of grass cutting frequencies is hoped to bring in an extra £65,000.
A proposal to redevelop the golf course at Temple Newsam, approved in September 2020, is expected to bring in an extra £72,000 a year from 2022/23 onwards.
Another £625,000 is expected to be saved from the scrapping of the council’s subsidy for Police and Community Support Officers (PCSOs).
A review of the level of overhead expenditure incurred by the Council and appropriately charged to Migration Yorkshire is estimated to generate additional income of £40,000 in 2021/22.
The opening times of Otley (Ellar Ghyll) household waste site will be reduced to
weekends only, and is hoped to save £75,000 in the coming year.
The report stated West Leeds Country Park Visitor Centre in Pudsey Park has been closed to the public due to Covid-19 restrictions and savings of £90,000 per year “have been identified on the assumption that it will not re-open.”
Despite originally proposing closing half of the city’s council-run bowling greens, it was instead decided to increase the annual price of a season ticket from £31 to £40.
The authority also wants to reduce seasonal bedding displays in parks and other green spaces by half, as well as reducing floral decorations such as hanging baskets, troughs and planters in the city centre by – this is hoped to save the council £150,000 a year.
Three community centres in Leeds are also expected to shut down, saving £200,000.
Children and families
When added together, the council’s total proposed cuts to its adults and health department comes to more than £7m, with an expected reduction of 52.5 full time equivalent staff.
Organisational changes within the department – such as the transfer of some staff to the children’s and families department, make up £1.77m of the saving. Increasing prices and the reduction of the amount of cash reserves going to services make up a further £2m of cuts.
Increase in demand for services is also expected to add another £1.8m of spending pressures.
The report states:
“Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, the Directorate has worked proactively with partners across the city to provide children and young people with essential support.
“Although provision has been made in the council’s strategic budget for the ongoing financial impact of Covid, the wider implications for both short and long term need within the city mean that the Directorate will continue to work collaboratively with partners to identify priorities for service delivery moving forwards.”
Adults and Health
A total cut to the Adults and Health directorate is expected to come to £6.9m.
This is despite an increase in grant funding of £4.47m, as well as a rise in the use of council reserves. The department also wants to claw back £2m of payments for services that have not yet been paid.
But the council’s national living wage commitments are expected to bite in this area, with wage rises of more than £3m.
It is also proposed two care homes – Richmond House in Farsley and Homelea House – are shut, which is expected to save the authority £489,000.
Staff reductions overall are expected to raise about £1.2m, with a reduction of 41 staff overall.
The report stated:
“Current context for adult social care and public health is heavily influenced by the Covid pandemic. It has necessarily changed significantly how and which services are commissioned and delivered.
“The near future is therefore somewhat uncertain; in Public Health sizeable efforts will still need to be input on managing the pandemic and its after effects throughout next year and a possible reprioritisation of services funded by the PH grant.
“Adult Social Care has to work within an uncertain environment of changes to its service offer mix and whether those changes are permanent or temporary, and a care market significantly affected by the pandemic. With specificity to each service the following aims to add further context.”
The council’s City Development department aims to cut £7.55m 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 the annual Christmas lights events, as well as no more support for bi-annual international football screenings in Millennium Square – meaning England’s appearances in the Euros and World Cups will no longer be screened.
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” of £200,000 will also be sought at the John Charles Centre for Sport.
The authority’s resources department is expected to see cuts of £13.65m and a total loss of 345 members of staff.
The staff losses are expected to fall most heavily in human resources (33 full time equivalent), financial services (22.4 FTE), business support centre (22.4 FTE), business administration service (101 FTE), democratic services (7.7 FTE) and Civic Enterprise Leeds (53.5 FTE).
West Leeds Dispatch‘s Cutswatch series has been following the proposed cuts over the past few months here.