The Mayor of West Yorkshire, in collaboration with the five local leaders in the region, has allocated £51 million to bolster local authority budgets. This move comes as councils nationwide issue grave warnings regarding the precarious state of local government finances.
The funding injection arrives at a time when town halls are grappling with formidable financial challenges brought on by soaring inflation, escalating expenses, and heightened demands for children’s and adult social care. These difficulties have been exacerbated by the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic and a decade of substantial funding cuts from the central government.
The funds being redirected to councils originate from The West Yorkshire Plus Transport Fund reserve, which supports extensive infrastructure projects in the region. Local leaders emphasize that enduring, sustainable funding from the central government is imperative to effectively tackle the financial predicament confronting councils.
The agreement to provide £51 million in funding, reached during a meeting of the West Yorkshire Combined Authority, has been facilitated through collaborative efforts between the Mayor and the leaders of the five district councils. This measure aims to alleviate some of the budgetary strains.
Tracy Brabin, Mayor of West Yorkshire, said; “Councils across West Yorkshire and beyond are facing the perfect storm of government austerity cuts and high inflation. Because of devolution, I’ve been able to work with them to identify this support at a time of need.
“With town halls across the country declaring huge financial deficits, it is only right that regional leaders work together and step in where they can. But I am urging the government to stop passing the buck for their mismanagement of the economy and properly fund local government for the long-term.”
Cllr Susan Hinchcliffe, Leader of Bradford Council, said; “One of the benefits of working closely in partnership with the Combined Authority is that we’re able to ensure funding is in the right place at the right time to be of best use.
“While this return of funding is appreciated, it in no way makes up for the £350m in funding for Bradford that has been cut by central government.
“Many local authorities nationally are facing significant financial challenges, government needs to change its approach to ensure councils can continue to meet increasing demand for services amid high inflation and energy costs.”
Cllr Jane Scullion, Leader of Calderdale Council, said; “We welcome this repayment which will help us to deal with the immediate financial challenge we are facing. Like all councils, we have significant ongoing pressures. The £110 million of budget savings we’ve had to find over the past decade impacts on what we do every day.
“However, we again delivered a balanced budget last year and we remain ambitious for Calderdale. We continue to deliver our largest ever capital programme across our towns – which the LGA Corporate Peer Challenge team recently described as ‘bold’ and ‘innovative’ – we continue to strive to reduce inequalities and we are responding to the climate emergency given its impact on Calderdale.”
Cllr Cathy Scott, Leader of Kirklees Council, said; “Councils in our region, and across the country, are facing major financial challenges. Releasing this funding back to councils is a positive step to reduce some of the immediate pressures.
“But many tough decisions remain for all local authorities and we urgently need wider government reform of the funding system to protect services for the long-term.”
Cllr James Lewis, Leader of Leeds City Council, said; “Leeds City Council is facing huge financial pressures made worse by national issues linked to inflation and growing demand for council services.
“The funding from the mayor will help in part, but it won’t solve the underlying problem that councils just aren’t properly funded by national Government. With a projected funding gap in Leeds of £59.2m next financial year, our council will still have to take some extremely difficult decisions about council services and buildings that haven’t been considered before.”
Cllr Denise Jeffery, Leader of Wakefield Council, said; “This decision is a great example of political leaders across West Yorkshire working together in difficult circumstances.
“It comes in response to the unprecedented challenge Local Government is facing. Caused by the Government’s irresponsible approach to our economy. Significant cuts to our budgets since 2010. And by a lack of long-term decisions on how to fund Councils sustainably.
“That makes it more important than ever that we have a strong partnership approach across the region. This is a really practical solution which will help us continue to deliver for the communities that rely on us.”