13 Oct 2020
Significant pressures on Leeds City Council’s 2021/2022 budget to be outlined to executive board
The significant challenges faced by Leeds City Council in next year’s budget as the city continues to confront the large financial impact of coronavirus, are set to be discussed by senior councillors next week.
As part of a meeting of the executive board on Wednesday, 21 October 2020, members will be able to consider how the council is proposing to identify further savings in order to try to meet the £118.8m shortfall which is estimated for the 2021/22 budget. This follows the executive board meeting in September already agreeing savings amounting to £32m, mainly made up from back office savings, including a £2m reduction to the council’s business administration service, as well as savings in IT and through reducing the council’s office base.
Included in the October report is an overall anticipated reduction in the workforce for 2021/22 of 617 posts, based on the proposals approved at the September executive board meeting and those being considered next week. In setting out the detail, the council has once again underlined its commitment to make every effort to avoid any compulsory redundancies being made.
A number of additional initial proposals regarding services and facilities which the council currently manages have also been put forward. All proposals will be subject to a full consultation with staff, trade unions and stakeholders and through designated public consultations as appropriate.
▪ Proposal to consult on the closure of two care homes: Homelea House in Rothwell and Richmond House in Farsley. Any decisions to move ahead with closure, would include a full public consultation and work to identify other care home accommodation suited to the individual needs of residents currently living at both care homes.
▪ A proposed increase in client contributions for adult social care services, maintaining means-testing.
▪ Proposed reduction in opening hours at Lotherton Hall and Thwaite Mills.
▪ Proposed closure of Yeadon Tarn Sailing Centre.
▪ Review of opening hours and staffing rotas within Community Hub/library provision across the city.
▪ Proposed closure of Otley (Ellar Ghyll) household waste and recycling centre. If given the go-ahead, staff affected would be redeployed to vacancies on other sites or elsewhere in the service.
▪ Carrying out a public consultation with young people regarding proposal on the potential introduction of an annual charge of £3 for Breezecard to cover administrative costs. Appropriate concessions would continue to be kept to be place.
▪ Proposed closure of West Leeds Country Park Visitor Centre in Pudsey Park. If given the go-ahead, work would be undertaken to look at the potential opportunity of repurposing or replacing the existing buildings with a park café which could retain some of the educational elements of the visitor centre.
The leader of council Councillor Judith Blake in setting out what she has called the ‘stark' challenge of meeting next year’s budget shortfall, has once again appealed for more support to be provided by government to meet the large costs associated with coronavirus. If this is not provided, Cllr Blake has said, there is the possibility that potentially more significant cuts to those outlined in the report may have to be made to services and facilities provided by the council.
Leader of Leeds City Council Councillor Judith Blake said:
“The pandemic has had a huge impact on the council’s budget for 2021/22. The stark reality of the situation is set out in the proposals detailed in this executive board report where we have had to take some incredibly tough decisions on the services and facilities that we deliver and manage.
“The government rightly wants local authorities to take more of a leading role in fighting the pandemic. However, without significantly more funding from central government we will be fighting the virus with one hand tied behind our back, due to the devastating hole COVID-19 has blown in our budget.
“We have and will continue to do everything possible to ensure that the impact on our staff and the important services that the council provides is kept to an absolute minimum. This includes taking every step to ensure that any reductions in the council’s workforce do not include compulsory redundancies, and to protect where possible our vital front-line services. But the fact remains that in the current challenging climate of coronavirus and the subsequent huge rise in our budget deficit, this task is becoming greater as every day passes.
“As a prudent, well-run council we have a great record of balancing our budget year on year, despite dwindling budget settlements from government. It is though now impossible for us to do this alone given the new additional pressures of coronavirus, and as a matter of urgency further assistance is required nationally to meet the stark budget shortfall that the council faces. We will continue to engage and speak with government to press the case on behalf of the people of Leeds.”
To view the executive board report published today, please see: https://democracy.leeds.gov.uk/documents/s210924/Budget%20Savings%20Report%20Appendices%20131020.pdf
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Leeds City Council