The leader of Leeds City Council has warned the Government not to forget local authorities as Chancellor Rishi Sunak announced plans to borrow record amounts of money to plug a gigantic Covid-shaped hole in the UK’s economy, writes Richard Beecham.
The Chancellor set out his autumn spending review in the Commons this afternoon claiming the country was entering an “economic emergency”, with the Office for Budget Responsibility forecasting the economy will contract this year by 11.3 per cent.
Mr Sunak pledged £55bn to bolster Britain’s finances next year, but there were also freezes to public sector pay, except for doctors and nurses in the NHS and those earning under £24,000, as well as a cut in the overseas aid budget.
In total, the Government is expected to have borrowed £394bn this year – the largest amount borrowed as a proportion of GDP in history.
Responding to today’s announcement, Leeds City Council leader Judith Blake said it would be unreasonable for at least some of that not to go towards cash-strapped local authority services, which are facing enormous cuts in the coming year. She said:
“We are currently working our way through the detail of the Chancellor’s spending review announcements around additional support for councils and levelling up so we can assess what this means for us as a council and a city moving forward into the next financial year.
“It’s important councils are properly funded so they can play their part in the recovery from the pandemic, be that through track and trace, mass vaccination, or the building of infrastructure to help create jobs and investment in cities like Leeds.
“As a result of Coronavirus and other pressures, Leeds City Council has an estimated funding gap of £118.8m next financial year, so it’s important the Government provides more funding to protect vital local services.
“What must not happen is another era of austerity, as we have seen over the last decade the damage that has been done to local public services. Sustained investment in public services and infrastructure is desperately needed to enable the economic recovery we need in these extraordinary times.”
Proposed cuts expected to be made by the council next year, should no extra money be forthcoming, include a reduction of more than 800 jobs, the closure of numerous community centres and the sale of dozens of council-owned buildings.
The Chancellor told the Commons he could not justify a “significant, across-the-board” pay increase for all public sector workers during the Covid-19 economic crisis.
More than a million nurses, doctors and other NHS workers will get a rise but pay increases for the rest of the public sector will be paused – except for the 2.1m workers earning below the median wage of £24,000, who will receive an increase of at least £250.
West Leeds Dispatch is tracking Leeds City Council budget cuts in West Leeds through the our Cutswatch series.
Times are difficult and 2020 has been one of the worst in my 60 years.
Financial awareness is important, so people, businesses and councils need to stop spending on non essential things until the economy picks up.
For councils, stop spending money on cycle lanes, bus lanes, 2 person lanes, council fact finding trips, and more. just improve the pot holed roads that we have, so traffic can flow freely, rather than all the road works we have which cost money, time and causes frustration for the people of Leeds.
Maintain the essential services for the people of Leeds who contribute to the funds and no doubt the council will increase the rates next year. I appreciate that some business may have reduced rates, or rents, but they will repay that when times are better.
Reduce the number of gardening services for the public spaces. I undertand that the coucil is looking to sell some of its properties. If thats what is needed, do it. If the properties are costing the council rather than providing an income, i am all for the selling. Keep what is profitable.
Keep the refuse collections, maintenance of other public services, fund the police,fire and other services, but dont invest in new services for another 18 months. Relying on the government is a double whammy for the people of Leeds, as our taxes will rise to pay for 2020 and the councils will be increasing our rates for to pay for the same things. so we pay twice.
We want a council that is responsible with our money and if it means some reduced non essential services, then that is fine.
thanks for reading this far.,
I agree with everything Martin says. There’s nothing wrong with austerity, in a household you practise austerity to avoid debt, the same should happen at city or country level.