Nurseries could close and rents could be raised in massive overhaul of Leeds City Council budget

The wide-ranging cutbacks by Leeds City Council would save £43m in spending. Credit: Leeds City Council

Streetlights could be dimmed, nurseries closed and Bonfire Night displays axed permanently as part of massive cutbacks being planned by Leeds City Council.

The local authority has outlined its budget proposals for the next financial year which, if approved, will see council tax rise again and services slashed.

Council house tenants could also see their rent increase by seven per cent in April, while parking charges are likely to be brought in at some parks and local attractions for the first time.

The plans would save around £43 million of public money, with the city council saying it's under more financial pressure than ever before.

Speaking at Civic Hall on Tuesday, council leader James Lewis said: "After 12 years of austerity forced on us as a council, we're looking at a hugely difficult situation for council services.

"Whether it's day-to-day services people rely on, like emptying the bins, sweeping the streets and fixing the roads, or whether it's the things we're doing to make Leeds a fun, enjoyable and successful city, it's getting unsustainable to do all that."

Cllr Lewis insisted public safety would not be compromised by the dimming of streetlights, which the authority says will only be done in areas where people aren't walking or driving.

Thousands are already regularly switched off across the city between midnight and 5.30am in a move the council says has not led to any increase in crime or anti-social behaviour.

Cllr Lewis added: "Streetlights are one of our biggest users of energy and as for anyone else who's at home paying for electricity, the cost has shot up through the roof.

"We'd always make sure we're not compromising either road safety or the safety or communities, but given the high cost of energy it's something we're going to have to look at."

Council leader James Lewis said he wanted the government to "properly review" the way local authorities are funded Credit: Leeds City Council

Five of the council's 30 Little Owls nurseries for pre-school children have also been earmarked for potential closure, saving just over £3m.

That comes amid pressures on the childcare sector in general, including staff shortages, higher costs and working-from-home culture allowing parents to keep their kids at home more.

Little Owls' Rothwell centre is set to shut, while the futures of ones in Bramley, Meanwood, Shepherds Lane and Swarcliffe will all be placed under review.

Other council-run nurseries which lie close together could be merged too.Cllr Lewis said the Little Owls service was currently running at a loss, despite the fact most parents pay it for their childcare, and that it had to be made "financially viable".

Additionally, council tax could rise by nearly five per cent, which includes a hike in the adult social care precept local authorities can charge.

There are also plans to raise the rent for council house tenants by seven per cent.

The authority said the rise would be in line with other areas and that the money will go back into maintaining and repairing those properties, as well as building more desperately-needed social housing.

Deputy council leader Debra Coupar said: "We recognise that obviously our residents and tenants are suffering from the cost-of-living crisis and it's not a decision we've taken lightly.

"It's not one we'd have taken if we'd had more funding from the government."

The initial proposals will go before the council's executive board on 14 December.

They will then go out to public consultation, and the plans' final draft will be voted on by all city councillors in February.

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