Leeds will continue its drive to be a compassionate, ambitious city built on a strong economy providing opportunities for all despite forecasts the council will need to address a further funding gap of approximately £50million next year.
A report outlining Leeds City Council’s financial strategy for the next five years will be considered by senior councillors at the executive board meeting at Civic Hall next week (Wednesday 21 October).
The report gives an overview of the range of factors expected to have an impact on the council’s finances up to April 2020, with the major one being further cuts to the funding Leeds receives from central government.
Since 2010, Leeds City Council has seen its core government funding reduced by £180m, representing a drop of more than 40 per cent in five years. The council estimates further cuts combined with rising costs of services and demand will result in an overall funding gap of £49.7m for 2016/17.
The council’s estimates are from indicative figures and are subject to change following the comprehensive spending review in November and the government grant settlement which will be confirmed in December.
Despite the ongoing financial challenges, the council is focused on continuing to be a compassionate city, looking to tackle inequalities through improving people’s health, skills and a commitment to supporting vulnerable children and young people, while also helping older people to live independent lives in their own homes.
The strategy aims to continue the ambitious economic approach which has helped the city create new private sector jobs at the fastest rate in the UK, as well as delivering successes like the opening of the first direct arena and Trinity Leeds, as well as hosting the Tour de France Grand Départ and bidding to become European Capital of Culture in 2023.
The council itself will continue to look to make savings and efficiencies, having saved £55m a year as a result of reducing staffing levels by over 2,500 full-time equivalents over the last five years.
The council is committed to engaging with all parts of the city as well as all groups and communities to discuss ideas and alternative ways of providing or supporting services which the council has previously delivered. This will include looking at opportunities around using new innovations and technologies.
Leader of Leeds City Council Councillor Judith Blake said:
“Leeds has taken a massive hit in terms of funding reductions in the last five years, especially compared to better-off areas in the south, and we are waiting to hear the full details of what we are likely to be facing over the next five years but we know the challenge will continue to be considerable.
“I am very proud of how resilient the city has been to face up to that challenge and continue to grow and we are absolutely committed to our aims of being a compassionate, ambitious city promoting innovation, job opportunities and skills development. However, with less and less government funding the simple fact is council tax and our other funding streams need to go further than ever before so more very difficult decisions lie ahead and we do need an open debate with everyone in Leeds as to the future role of the council in terms of what services it should provide or support and how they should be delivered.”
The report makes no indication of council tax levels for next year as the council is awaiting further details on that aspect from the government.
The strategy also projects some longer-term figures including a forecasted overall funding gap of a further £146milion in total over the next five years, but these are basic forecasts due to the many variables involved including the impact of further devolution of resources to local areas and changes in business rates collections which are to be fully retained by local authorities by 2020.
The council’s initial budget proposals for 2016/17 will be presented in December for consultation before being finalised in February.
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