Leeds City Council has put forward its annual budget proposals to achieve the estimated £65.4million it needs to save in the next financial year.
With the city responding and adapting to changes caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, costs and demand pressures continue to rise especially in services providing care for vulnerable children, young people and adults in Leeds as well as within services responsible for the collection and disposal of the city’s waste.
The 2022/23 budget proposals, to be discussed by the council’s executive board at Leeds Civic Hall before being consulted on over the coming weeks, include a proposed council tax increase of 1.99 per cent for core council tax and one per cent which the government requires be dedicated for adult social care funding.
In order to submit a balanced budget to full council for approval in February, the council has been required to address an estimated £65.4m budget gap. All areas of the council continue to look for efficiencies and new ways of working in order to deliver services as effectively as possible in the face of the ongoing financial challenge.
After taking account of these previously identified changes as well additional funding, joint investment through working with partners and the use of reserves, £20.8m savings remained for the target to be achieved. Additional efficiencies and service reviews put forward for consideration in September and this month if approved and realised would deliver the total required level of savings. The council remains committed to protecting frontline services supporting the most vulnerable residents, with over 60 per cent of the budget continuing to be allocated to health, adults and children’s social care.
The proposed annual budget for the forthcoming financial year 2022/23 needs to be seen in the context of the financial challenge the council has faced since 2010. Since then the council’s annual core settlement funding from the government has reduced by £263m (or 60 per cent), and it also follows on from the requirement to deliver £56.1m of savings in the current financial year. Further savings are also expected to be needed in 2023/24 and 2024/25. The figures in the budget proposals will be finalised following the government’s local government settlement, which is expected later this month.
Leader of Leeds City Council Councillor James Lewis said:
“As the figures clearly show, we are facing another very challenging year ahead in Leeds, especially with the increasing pressure on local residents through council tax needing to be stretched to cover more services, especially those in adult social care where we have significant demand.
“As a city, Leeds and its residents continue to show remarkable resilience in adapting to the changes in all our lives caused by Covid-19, and we continue to be especially grateful for all our frontline and key workers, especially those in health roles in keeping us safe. I am confident we can continue to rise to the challenge through working together, continuing to be ambitious, and showing compassion especially for our most vulnerable residents in the months ahead.”
Despite the ongoing challenges and pressures, the council remains committed to being as resilient, enterprising and sustainable as possible, tackling poverty and inequality through a strong economy and compassionate city. Its focus continues to be on its three pillars of inclusive growth, health and wellbeing for all and tackling the climate emergency including achieving net zero by 2030.
In terms of staffing levels, the 2022/23 budget proposals contain a loss of 26 full-time equivalent (FTE posts), but also include 148 new FTE posts in services including climate change, social care and environmental services. Overall, the council has reduced in size by 2,875 FTE posts between 2011 and the end of this financial year. The council continues to be a Real Living Wage employer, with the basic wage level increasing to £9.90 per hour.
Following the discussion of the budget at the executive board meeting, the proposals will go out to consultation via a four-week online survey, as well as stakeholder engagement including with councillors, unions, business representatives and third sector groups. Paper copies will be available at community hubs across the city. The final budget proposals will then be presented to the executive board in February before being debated and voted on at that month’s full council meeting.
Two new areas identified for review within the proposals include changes to the delivery of adult social care, with a focus on providing the right support for people at the right time in their homes with more emphasis on increased occupational therapy services. The second area would be to carry out public consultation on introducing an admission charge for Kirkstall Abbey for all non-Leeds residents.
The online consultation survey is now live at www.leeds.gov.uk/budget, and will run until the end of Thursday 13 January. Views and feedback will also be received from a range of stakeholders including councillors, unions, business representatives and third sector groups. Staff in council-managed community hubs will be able to help support people to fill in the survey.
All of the views received will be considered as part of the final budget proposals which will be discussed by the council’s executive board on Wednesday 9 February, before being debated and voted on at the full council meeting on Wednesday 23 February. To take part in the consultation online, visit our page on Your Voice Leeds at www.leeds.gov.uk/budget
To see the budget proposals report, please visit www.democracy.leeds.gov.uk