Council tax is set to rise by 3.99 per cent in Leeds next year in order to meet rising costs and demand on services as part of final budget plans released by Leeds City Council today.
In a report to be considered by the council’s executive board at Civic Hall on Wednesday 12 February followed by the debate at full council on Wednesday 26 February, the budget plan for 2020/21 shows how the council aims to deliver a further £28.4million of savings over the next financial year.
Rising costs and demand means two per cent of the council tax increase will be dedicated to adult social care funding. With population growth forecasts predicting a continued rise in the numbers of people aged 85-89 over the next five years, the additional £6.4m raised through the adult social care precept will contribute towards meeting increasing care costs associated with a growing population, providing support for vulnerable older people in Leeds.
The council’s approach to next year’s budget continues its commitment to tackling poverty and inequalities in the city through strengthening the economy and being compassionate and caring. To reflect this 61.4 per cent of the council’s overall budget is being allocated to supporting adults and health and children and families to support the most vulnerable in the city.
The 2020/21 budget sets aside a further £1.6m to provide for anticipated growth in need to support looked after children in the city, as part of the ongoing commitment to children and families which includes no council-managed children’s centres having been closed in Leeds.
The need to achieve additional savings continues a pressure the council has faced for the last decade, a period in which core funding from government has been reduced by approximately £266m, a 59 per cent cut overall between 2010 and 2020. The cumulative total of the funding reductions in that time period is approximately £1.7billion.
The provisional Local Government Finance Settlement issued by the government in December gave one-year funding agreements for the next year, with a spending review to be carried out to determine the future funding position for local authorities from April 2021.
Council tax in Leeds is currently the second-lowest of the English core cities, with the level for Band D properties being lower than in Manchester, Sheffield, Newcastle, Liverpool, Bristol and Nottingham.
The budget makes allowance for an expected lower level of retained business rates growth for Leeds of £5.9m for the coming year, a significant reduction of 35.2 per cent from the 2019/20 levels. A key factor in this reduction is the government’s decision that the collective North & West Yorkshire Business Rates Pool will only retain 50 per cent of business rates growth next year compared to 75 per cent this year.
As an organisation, the council itself will continue to focus on being efficient and enterprising, with three elements underpinning its approach; inclusive growth, health and wellbeing and climate change. Climate change will factor into all aspects of decision-making following the council’s declaration of a climate emergency in March last year.
The council will continue to be a real living wage employer, with minimum pay levels being the Living Wage Foundation rate of £9.30. In terms of staffing levels, the budget for 2020/21 sees the position from previous years continue with no proposals for large-scale compulsory redundancies, as the council has reduced in size by over 3,000 employees between 2010 and 2019.
Public and stakeholder consultation carried out on the initial budget proposals in January resulted in more than 1500 survey responses being received, with approximately 70 per cent of those supporting the council’s budget approach.
Leader of Leeds City Council Councillor Judith Blake said:
“The financial position for the year ahead is as we expected it to be from the initial proposals in December – more tough choices with further significant savings needing to be made. Our approach remains unchanged, with a commitment to protecting frontline services and investing in support for our communities and especially our most vulnerable young people, families and adults.
“Despite these ongoing challenges, we will keep doing everything we can to tackle poverty and inequality, as well as promoting opportunities for all as a compassionate city with a strong economy. We will also continue to work alongside our partners to lobby government for the resources we need and for clear decisions over future funding beyond this year.
“Tackling the climate emergency is a significant priority for us and needs to run through everything the council does as we strive to make Leeds a carbon-neutral city.”
To see the final budget proposal for Leeds for 2020/21, go to https://democracy.leeds.gov.uk/ieListDocuments.aspx?MId=9776&x=1& (agenda item 15).
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