Clare Burnett

Member Article

274 jobs and £81 million funding in jeopardy at Leeds City Council

274 job losses along with further reductions in services are proposed as the council faces cuts of around £81m in government funding over the next two years.

Leeds City Council is having to consider a council tax rise of 2% following a three-year freeze in order to help reduce the impact of continued budget cuts and increased demand on frontline services.

In the coming financial year 2014/15 the government has cut the council’s funding by £36m on top of the council having already had to cope with government grants reductions of £94m over the past three years.

During that time the council has done everything it can to reduce spending in areas such as staffing costs, service changes, rationalising buildings and more efficient ways of working.

Great efforts have gone into this in order to protect frontline services as far as possible. Councillor Keith Wakefield, leader of Leeds City Council, said: “The past few years have been incredibly difficult and we have shouldered our share of significant funding reductions.

This is a dire financial situation and no-one in public service wants to reduce or stop providing services but we’ve reached the point where we have to start thinking the unthinkable- all options have to be on the table.

“We cannot continue to freeze council tax as it reduces our income to the point where it threatens our ability to support even the services we must provide by law. While we have fought hard to protect council services and will continue to do so, we can no longer afford to guarantee there will be no compulsory redundancies in the future.

“We have had to cut and reduce services in a way that no-one who enters public service ever wants to do. Our hard-working, dedicated staff- more than 40% of whom did not have a single day off sick last year- are incredibly committed to improving services and helping us reduce costs while they have seen many of their colleagues leave and not be replaced.

“However, the more efficient we become the harder it is to achieve further savings, especially in the face of the apparent widening gap between north and south and disparities in funding between regions

“This will present even tougher challenges with further cuts to our funding of around 15% in 2015/16. Yet we are as determined as ever to continue to drive growth, jobs and a real future for the city and its people.

“Everyone has to work harder than ever as they struggle to cope with rising costs and as more people are slipping into poverty it puts increasing demands on frontline public services to be the backbone providing crucial support to communities.

“Our reduced funds have to be put into supporting the people who really need it- and our residents have repeatedly told us that they share that view.”

The report shows that supporting vulnerable people is again the council’s top priority. This is in line with what local people said was most important to them with the biggest response to date to the YouChoose consultation used to help draw up the proposals.

Spending on adults’ and children’s services currently takes up almost 60% of the council’s budget and this will continue to go up. Top of the list of service spending that people wanted to be protected were children’s social care, special educational needs and disability services and adult mental health.

This is largely similar to the previous year, as were efficiency savings suggestions such as better waste management, less frequent bin collections, lower staff numbers and salaries and improvements to how the council works.

This has been demonstrated over the past three years as more than 1,800 jobs have gone, including a quarter of all senior managers and the number of council buildings in the city centre is being significantly reduced.

Around £25m has been saved by improving procurement practices- spending on goods and services. The council has looked at ways to try to increase income, with initiatives such as setting up a company called Civic Enterprise Leeds.

This allows the council to be able to raise money by trading some of its key services, such as catering and payroll, to other organisations.

As an example of how the council is actively attempting to make savings while getting the best out of services, it estimates it will save £5.8m next year through its work to support families, helping children who may otherwise have to be looked after to stay at home.

These considerable savings have been made while the council strives to become more efficient and enterprising, maintain high quality public services, promote sustainable, inclusive economic growth, support older people to live in their own homes for longer, become a city that is child-friendly and deal effectively with the city’s waste.

It also continues to push for further devolution of powers from Whitehall on areas such as transport, apprenticeships and jobs skills training.

The budget proposals will be received by the council’s executive board on December 18 and then issued for consultation, at which point further information will be given on how people can make their views known. Following consultation the proposals will then be revised before being brought back to the full council for consideration on February 26 2014.

This was posted in Bdaily's Members' News section by Clare Burnett .

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