Final Leeds budget plans for 2019-20 announced
Leeds City Council has confirmed its plan for a council tax rise of 3.99 per cent in response to rising demand on social care services and a cut in annual core government funding of £266m since 2010.
In a report to be considered by the council’s executive board at Civic Hall next week (Wednesday 13 February) before being debated and voted on at the full council meeting on 27 February, the budget plan for 2019/20 details how the council intends to deliver £22.6million of savings over the next 12 months.
After the initial budget proposals were released in December, these have now been updated to reflect further confirmation on funding elements received from the government. They also take into account discussions undertaken on the plans, including public consultation which resulted in 1,241 survey responses being received.
The updated figures show that core government funding for Leeds will continue to be reduced by another £15.2m next year, a 7.7 per cent annual reduction. This forms part of an overall reduction of £266m in total core funding for Leeds next year compared to the level in 2010, which represents a 59 per cent cut for next year in comparison with 2010.
In order to support and protect essential frontline services the council is proposing a 2.99 per cent rise in council tax, added to by an additional 1 per cent precept to support the rising pressures on adult social care services.
The impact of funding changes and the growing importance of the role council tax plays in council funding can be seen in the fact in 2010/11 for every pound of council tax received in Leeds the government added a further £1.15. For the coming year, for every pound of council tax received there is no similar support from the government and instead the council is required to use income from business rates to support its budget.
In keeping with its Best City ambition and commitment to being a compassionate city with a strong economy offering inclusive growth and opportunities for all, the council aims to continue meeting the financial challenge by being efficient and enterprising.
The budget identifies the council making savings of £8.1m next year through further efficiencies. The council’s minimum wage rate will rise to £9.18 per hour for current employees, which is 18 pence above the Real Living Wage.
Leader of Leeds City Council Councillor Judith Blake said:
“Another very challenging year lies ahead with our funding being cut again and our costs rising. In this climate the role of council tax becomes ever more important year on year, as it is needed to go further and further to protect frontline services and support our most vulnerable residents.
“We also face significant financial uncertainty in the coming year as this is the last year of our funding agreement with the government and so far we have had no indication as to what happens next, which means we cannot plan ahead in the way we normally would, which is deeply frustrating and concerning.
“Despite these challenges, we continue to manage the council’s finances in the most prudent and robust way we can, constantly being open to new ideas, innovations and ways of working and doing everything we can to tackle poverty and inequality as a compassionate city with a strong economy. That approach will continue to guide everything we do over the next 12 months.”
One of the key elements of the council’s finances is business rates, and the executive board will also be asked to endorse management arrangements for the new North and West Yorkshire Business Rates Pool which was approved by the government in December.
Leeds City Council is the lead organisation for the pool, which will see local authorities retain 75 per cent of all business rates growth over the next year to be pooled into a combined fund.
The pilot is expected to generate £29m of funding, with £6m to be used to fund regional projects and the remainder being used to support each authority’s finances.
The partners in the new pool are Bradford, Calderdale, Craven, Hambleton, Harrogate, Kirklees, Leeds, North Yorkshire, Richmondshire, Rydedale, Selby, Scarborough, Wakefield and York.
Notes to editors:
Leeds City Council’s net revenue budget for 2019/20 is £516.7m.
Variations since the initial budget proposals include changes to the net revenue charge, assessment of business rates and the cost of servicing council debts which have resulted in a contribution of £2.8m to the council’s general reserves. Following discussion and feedback, the proposal to implement charging at district car parks is now no longer in the planned budget for 2019/20.
As part of the council’s commitment to ensuring the highest levels of fire safety in high-rise blocks, the budget provides funding for three new fire safety officers to increase the frequency of fire risk assessments, while improvements to sprinkler systems will continue to be delivered in 2019 and 2020.
In order to encourage empty homes in the city to be used, the budget doubles the council tax premium on properties unoccupied for more than two years from 50 to 100 per centre from April.
Reflecting the focus on protecting the most vulnerable young and older people in the city, together adult social care and children’s and family services will account for 62.5per cent of the council’s overall budget for 2019/2020.
To see Leeds City Council’s final budget report for 2019/20, go to https://bit.ly/2D8EpPA (agenda item 14).
To see the report on the North and West Yorkshire Business Rates Pool, go to https://bit.ly/2D8EpPA (agenda item 13).
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