Leeds City Council has unveiled its initial budget proposals for the fiscal year 2024/25, detailing a range of substantial changes. These adjustments, aimed at achieving necessary savings of £58.4 million, are set to be deliberated by senior councillors during the executive board meeting on December 13 at Civic Hall.

The key proposed modifications include:

  1. A 4.99% increase in council tax, with a dedicated two percent to support adult social care funding.
  2. Exploration of reduced opening hours at community hubs and libraries citywide.
  3. Closure of Knowle Manor Care Home in Morley due to inadequate facilities, with Dolphin Manor Care Home in Rothwell repurposed as a recovery hub.
  4. Reviews of fees and charges for adult social care in Leeds.
  5. Assessment of council-managed children’s centres and Little Owls nurseries based on sufficiency need and financial viability.
  6. Review of fees and pricing for hiring community centres in Leeds.
  7. Introduction of charges at specific car parks and exploration of charges at additional locations through ongoing consultations.
  8. Closure of Pudsey Civic Hall and potential sale, given its operational losses.
  9. Discussion with Canal & River Trust to terminate the lease at Thwaite Watermill Museum (Thwaite Mills).
  10. Introduction of charges for bulky waste removal for second and subsequent collections in a single year.
  11. Reduction of council staffing levels by up to 750 full-time equivalent posts by the end of the 2024/25 financial year, with ongoing trade union consultation to avoid compulsory redundancies.

These proposed changes align with the council’s ongoing efforts to address financial challenges, which have been exacerbated by rising costs, increased demand for services, and a nationally agreed-upon pay increase for council staff. The financial landscape has evolved significantly since 2010, with the council facing a total savings target of £795 million by the end of 2024/25. The shift from national government funding to locally delivered taxes underscores the need for local services to adapt to the changing financial dynamics.

Leader of Leeds City Council Councillor James Lewis said; “We know some of the proposals we have set out today will be unpopular as they will have a challenging impact on people’s lives. As is increasingly being seen around the country, councils have only very difficult choices left to use to balance their budgets, meet the needs of residents and not risk being driven to the point of financial distress. Local government cannot continue in this way, it simply isn’t workable.

“In the immediate short-term, we call on the government to use the upcoming finance settlement to provide the urgent help all councils clearly need, especially in the face of the rising costs and demand in children’s services to help support and protect our most vulnerable children and young people.”

Despite the financial difficulty, the council remains committed to the Best City Ambition for Leeds to be a welcoming city with a strong economy offering opportunities for all, tackling poverty and inequality through the key pillars of health and wellbeing, inclusive growth and zero carbon.

Leeds City Council was formally praised last year for how it operates following a peer review carried out by the Local Government Association. The LGA team returned to Leeds this summer for a progress review and were again positive in their findings, while recognising the significant ongoing financial challenge the council is facing.

Councillor Lewis added; “As the LGA review identified, a real strength we have in the city is the ‘Team Leeds’ approach, with organisations, groups, and communities coming together to provide collective resilience and a desire to help people and deliver through sharing ideas and embracing new ways of working through innovation. This reflects the people of Leeds as a whole and we will need to continue to draw on that collective strength in order to get through the difficult months ahead, which I am confident we can do, but nobody should be under any illusions as to how hard the position is.”