In a critical meeting scheduled for next week, the Executive Committee of Bradford Council is set to deliberate on budget proposals for the financial year 2024-25. The proposed measures aim to address the imperative of substantial savings, encompassing various options that are poised to impact the community significantly.

Among the proposals on the table are the closure of a Children’s Outdoor Centre, the shutdown of three household waste recycling sites, reductions in funding allocated to libraries and leisure services, an augmentation in fees and charges across the council, and an increase in council tax.

To confront the ongoing financial challenges, additional cost-cutting measures will be developed in the months ahead, with the ultimate goal of achieving a balanced budget. The Executive meeting on Thursday, 11 January, will mark the commencement of a public consultation on these proposals.

The financial strain prompting these measures is attributed to unprecedented pressures, primarily stemming from the continual escalation in demand and costs associated with Children’s and Adult Social Care. Current projections indicate that spending on adult and children’s services for this fiscal year is set to consume a staggering 87% of the budget agreed upon for 2023-24.

The historical backdrop reveals the arduous financial journey for Bradford Council, having navigated over £350 million in cuts and savings since 2011 due to national austerity measures, inflation, and increased demands. Recent spikes in inflation and energy prices have further intensified the fiscal challenges faced by local authorities nationwide. In tandem with various counterparts, Bradford Council is actively engaging in discussions with the government to secure exceptional financial support, necessary for setting a balanced budget.

The imperative for substantial savings revolves around directly provided or commissioned services by the Council, excluding those delivered by the Bradford Children and Families Trust (BCFT). Children’s Social Care, overseen by the BCFT, is anticipated to expend approximately half of the Council’s net budget this year, with its own business plan under development for the upcoming fiscal year.

Efforts to mitigate the rising costs of Children’s social care include ongoing discussions with the Department for Education (DfE) for financial support to the Bradford Children and Families Trust. Collaborative initiatives between the Council and BCFT involve reviews of reserves, capital programs, increased fees and charges, and the initiation of an extensive transformation program.

Cllr Susan Hinchcliffe, Leader of Bradford Council, said; “No council should be having to choose between funding services for communities and neighbourhoods, and funding services for vulnerable children and adults, but that is the situation we find ourselves in.

“The demand for, and cost of, providing residential placements and home-to-school transport is unsustainable for many councils on top of the effects of inflation and reductions in central government funding since 2011.

“I am asking the government to fix the dysfunctional children’s social care market and fund local services effectively so that we can continue building a future that enables everyone in the Bradford district to make the best of opportunities available to them here.”