Leeds City Council’s Leader has expressed disappointment over what he deems as insufficient additional government funding, claiming it won’t make a substantial impact on the proposed £63.9 million savings to be implemented in the upcoming financial year. The budget plans for 2024/25, disclosed today, outline various measures including new car parking charges, price hikes, service and staffing reductions, and a 4.98% council tax increase to maintain a balanced budget, as legally mandated annually.

Councillor James Lewis, the Leader of Leeds City Council, acknowledged the approximately £6.8 million in extra government funding aimed at assisting with the escalating costs of children’s social care placements. However, he stressed that the financial situation remains precarious, not only for Leeds but for councils nationwide grappling with rising expenses and the constant struggle to meet budgetary requirements.

Leader of Leeds City Council Councillor James Lewis said; “While we welcome any additional support, the reality is it will regrettably not make much of a real difference given the scale of the situation we are in.

“The position remains perilous for not just us but councils across the country, with spiralling costs and a continuous challenge to make ends meet which has become almost impossible. The result is a budget which includes decisions we did not want to make but now have to reluctantly put forward for approval. They will have an impact on the services people see and receive, but we are committed to doing everything we can to keep providing for all our residents even if some things are going to have to change as the reality is we have no other choice.”

Leeds’ financial challenges stem from funding reductions, escalating costs, and increased demand for council services since 2010. By the end of 2024/25, the council will have had to deliver savings amounting to £794 million. The proposed budget for the upcoming fiscal year identifies an additional £51.9 million in savings, with changes affecting various aspects of community life.

These proposed changes include the introduction of car parking charges at popular parks and locations such as Middleton Park, Roundhay Park, Temple Newsam Park, Golden Acre Park, Otley Chevin Forest Park, as well as several other locations. Other alterations encompass changes to opening hours at community hubs and libraries, modifications to fees and charges for adult social care, and a review of council care home provision.

Despite these stringent measures, Councillor Lewis emphasized the commitment to providing essential services, even though certain changes are unavoidable. He stated, “The position remains perilous for not just us but councils across the country, with spiralling costs and a continuous challenge to make ends meet which has become almost impossible.”

With Leeds City Council expecting a mere £6.8 million in additional government funding, the reliance on council tax to fund services becomes apparent. The proposed 4.98% increase, including a 1.99% allocation for adult social care, equates to an annual rise of £81.91 for a Band D property – £1.58 per week. In 2024/25, council tax will constitute 67% of the annual budget, a sharp increase from 39.9% in 2013, while the Revenue Support Grant from the government has dwindled from 35.6% to a mere 5.7% in the same period.

These budget proposals, initially released in December, have undergone shaping through discussions and consultations with stakeholders, including more than 1,700 responses from an online public survey. The council remains steadfast in pursuing its Best City Ambition despite financial constraints, aiming for Leeds to be a welcoming city with a robust economy, tackling poverty and inequality through health and wellbeing, inclusive growth, and zero carbon initiatives.

The challenging financial situation is evident from the projected overspend of £39 million for the current fiscal year, coupled with an expected requirement to save an additional £64.6 million in 2025/26 and £47.1 million in 2026/27. Senior councillors are set to discuss the annual budget plans at the executive board meeting at Civic Hall on February 7, with the final debate and vote scheduled for the full council meeting on February 21. Interested parties can review the budget reports on the Council and Democracy section of the Leeds City Council website.