City council has ‘mountain to climb’ to find savings for planned budget

Leeds City Council has published its financial budget proposals, despite grappling with a £119m deficit for the coming financial year.

The council anticipates its income from business rates to reduce by £101.8m largely as a result of COVID-19.

While the Government has provided £75.5m the council still had to identify further proposals to address the £26.3m shortfall.

And as a result of these budget proposals it is projected the council’s workforce will reduce by 791 full time posts in the coming year.

As of 31 December last year, the council says it has already seen a reduction of 221 full time posts when compared with the same period in the previous financial year and many staff have left through voluntary redundancy

In a report to be considered by the council’s executive board on 10 February followed by the debate at full council on 24 February, the budget plan for 2021/22 is the final step in a process which began at the end of summer.

Since September the council has been carrying out financial planning to find savings to meet the £119m deficit.

A 1.99 per cent increase in core council tax has been proposed with a further 3% for the Government’s proposed adult social care precept.

Leader of Leeds City Council, Councillor James Lewis, said: “We are required to make decisions at a time when COVID-19 makes future planning uncertain and this budget particularly difficult.

“We know that COVID-19 will continue to have an ongoing financial impact and it will be difficult to provide the same council services without changing the way we work.

“Over the last ten years we have balanced our budget despite reductions in funding that have seen a total of £2bn of Government grants taken away from funding our council services.

“The recent Government spending review failed to provide sufficient funding for adult social care or to fully close the gap caused by pressures associated with COVID-19.

“We have been left with a particularly steep mountain to climb this year in terms of the savings we have had to find.

“Unfortunately we have already seen a number of experienced colleagues leave the council, the impact of which will continue to be felt as more leave over the coming year.

“These are incredibly difficult times for Leeds City Council and none of these recommendations have been made lightly.”