30 Jan 2024

Leeds Council Leader admits extra funding “not enough to make a difference” as annual budget plans for 2024/25 finalised

Council budget Finance

Final budget proposals to be discussed in February

The Leader of Leeds City Council has described extra government funding as “regrettably not enough to make any real difference” as final budget plans to deliver £63.9million of savings in the next year were released today.

The council’s budget report for the coming financial year 2024/25 includes a wide range of measures such as new car parking charges, price increases, service and staffing reductions together with a council tax increase of 4.98 per cent in order to deliver a balanced budget, as the council is legally required to do each year.

Councils across the country are experiencing severe financial stress as a result of significantly increased costs to provide services and rising demand, especially for vulnerable young people and adults. This is being seen especially in supporting looked after children, those with special care and education needs as well as for adult social care, while a nationally-agreed pay increase for council staff has also added to budget pressures.

The council is expecting to receive approximately £6.8million of extra government funding announced last week, which will be used to help cover the additional costs of children’s social care placements. While welcoming the extra money, the Leader of Leeds City Council Councillor James Lewis says it won’t make a significant difference to the council’s overall financial position.

Leader of Leeds City Council Councillor James Lewis said:

“While we welcome any additional support, the reality is it will regrettably not make much of a real difference given the scale of the situation we are in.

“The position remains perilous for not just us but councils across the country, with spiralling costs and a continuous challenge to make ends meet which has become almost impossible. The result is a budget which includes decisions we did not want to make but now have to reluctantly put forward for approval. They will have an impact on the services people see and receive, but we are committed to doing everything we can to keep providing for all our residents even if some things are going to have to change as the reality is we have no other choice.”

The position in Leeds reflects the impact of funding reductions, cost increases and demand pressures for council services since 2010. Between 2010 and the end of 2024/25, the council will have had to deliver savings totalling £794million.

The budget for 2024/25 identifies a further £51.9million of savings to add to £12million which had previously already been agreed for the coming financial year. Among the proposed changes are:

  • - Introduction of car parking charges at Middleton Park, Roundhay Park, Temple Newsam Park, Golden Acre Park and Otley Chevin Forest Park
  • - Introduction of car parking charges at Barley Hill Road in Garforth, Netherfield Road in Guiseley, Fink Hill in Horsforth, Marsh Street in Rothwell as well as Wilderness and Station Gardens car parks in Wetherby
  • - Changes to opening hours at community hubs and libraries
  • - Changes to fees and charges for adult social care in Leeds
  • - Review of council care home provision
  • - Review of fees and charges at community centres
  • - Review of children’s centres and Little Owls nurseries
  • - Bulky waste removal charges to remain free for each household’s first collection and then be reintroduced for more than one collection in the same year
  • - Pudsey Civic Hall which operates at a loss to be closed and made available for sale
  • - Council to end lease at Thwaite Watermill Museum (Thwaite Mills) through discussions with owners Canal & River Trust
  • - Council staffing levels to reduce by net 323.1 full-time equivalent posts by the end of the 2024/25 financial year compared to the approved 2023/24 budget, with ongoing trade union consultation to avoid, reduce and mitigate the needs for compulsory redundancies. The council currently has approximately 3,430 fewer staff than it did in 2010.

All council assets and services are being continuously assessed and reviewed to see how they can help mitigate the financial position. The council has also enacted a freeze on recruitment, as well as on non-essential spending except where necessary for health and safety or statutory reasons.

Council tax in Leeds is the second-lowest of the eight core cities in England, with the increase of 4.98 per cent (including 1.99 per cent dedicated to adult social care) representing an increase of £81.91 per year for a Band D property - £1.58 per week.

The increasing reliance on council tax to fund council services can be seen as it will account for 67 per cent of the council’s annual budget in 2024/25 compared to 39.9 per cent in 2013, while the Revenue Support Grant from the government has dropped from contributing 35.6 per cent of the council’s annual budget to just 5.7 per cent in the same period.

The budget proposals were initially released in December - Buildings closures, service changes and price increases proposed as Leeds City Council tackles local government budget crisis – and have been shaped by a range of discussions and consultation with stakeholders which followed, as well as more than 1,700 responses received from an online public survey.

Despite the financial challenge, the council remains committed to the Best City Ambition for Leeds to be a welcoming city with a strong economy offering opportunities for all, tackling poverty and inequality through the key pillars of health and wellbeing, inclusive growth and zero carbon.

This ambition will be delivered through a continuation of the ‘Team Leeds’ approach, working strategically with partners, stakeholders and communities to maximise all available resources across the city. It recognises the strengths and opportunities in the city for Leeds to be a place that prioritises people, partners and businesses working together to achieve a shared vision.

The difficulty of the financial position is further shown by an overspend of £39million for the current financial year, while there is also a projected expectation to save a further £64.6m in 2025/26 and £47.1m in 2026/27.

The annual budget plans will be discussed by senior councillors at the meeting of the executive board at Civic Hall next week (February 7), before then being debated and voted on at the meeting of full council on Wednesday 21 February.

To see the budget reports the executive board will be discussing go to Council and democracy (leeds.gov.uk) (agenda item 13).

Notes to editors:

Leeds City Council was formally praised in 2022 for how it operates following a peer review carried out by the Local Government Association. The LGA team returned to Leeds in summer 2023 for a progress review and were again positive in their findings, while recognising the significant ongoing financial challenge the council is facing.


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