1. ITV Report

Making "challenging" cuts in Leeds

Leeds Photo: Press Association

The Leader of Leeds City Council has warned of having to make decisions "more challenging than any of us imagined". The council needs to save £51.3 million next year.

The proposals for the council's annual budget for 2013/14 will be discussed by senior councillors at the executive board meeting today.

The cuts follow on from the £145m reductions to council funds over the last two years due to cuts in government funding and rising costs and demand for essential services.

It is thought under 400 council jobs will go in the next year and there will be changes to waste bin collection services.

Here are some of the things the council believes will reduce costs:

  • Working to ensure best levels of frontline services can be offered in local areas
  • Developing stronger links with partners such as the NHS, businesses, community groups and third sector organisations to maintain or take over running of services
  • Leeds City Council becoming a smaller organisation but with a larger influence through developing new or existing partnerships
  • Developing additional income from new funding streams to protect jobs and services
  • Greater collaborative working across council departments to improve efficiency and make savings
  • Greater collaborative working with other councils to maximise benefits of the City Deal devolved powers and funding from government to the Leeds City Region

Looking to deliver yet more savings, after already saving £145m, is more challenging than any of us imagined. Sadly, there is no escaping the fact that future savings will directly affect services and jobs, and our ability to protect services will be more restricted than ever. That said, we do still have choices about how to make savings -and we need to be clear about those choices, however difficult they may be.

We are looking at all areas of the council to find savings, including some that we hoped we would never have to consider. We remain determined to do all we can to improve the lives of people in Leeds through new ways of working, although the simple fact is the council is getting smaller. We need to look at any and all ideas to ensure the best services can be offered to people in whatever form that may be. The council is in an incredibly difficult position but we are determined to work through this as a city.

– Councillor Keith Wakefield

The numbers of staff at Leeds City Council is projected to fall by another 388 full-time equivalent posts in 2013-14, adding to approximately 1,800 staff to have left since April 2010 as part of the drive to reduce staff numbers by 2,500 full-time posts by March 2015, a 12.5 per cent reduction in the overall council workforce excluding school-based staff.

Under the budget proposals adult social care and children's services will continue to be a focus of council resources, but with a stronger concentration on preventative interventions, which they hope will bring about significant savings.

The proposals would see the alternative-week recycling and waste bin collection services rolled out across the city, helping to encourage greater recycling while cutting costs and reducing landfill.

Encouraging business and housing growth is a key aim of the budget, with spend on services such as planning and economic development protected where possible. In addition to maintain the condition of the road network in Leeds the highways budget would remain unchanged, while an increase in funding for transport improvements would form part of the commitment to carry out the £1billion West Yorkshire Transport Fund as set out in the City Deal.

Summing up the budget proposals, Councillor Keith Wakefield added:

Looking ahead, 2013 is going to be a big year for Leeds with the opening of the long-awaited Leeds Arena and Trinity Leeds plus a major focus on investment and job creation through the City Deal and the work of the Leeds City Region. So it is important to remember it is not all doom-and-gloom, but make no mistake about the severity of the challenge we face which is exceptionally difficult and unprecedented in modern history.

– Councillor Keith Wakefield