The Leader of Leeds City Council Councillor Keith Wakefield is calling on all residents to have their say on how the council saves £76.1million in next year’s budget.
A one-month consultation period has just started at www.leeds.gov.uk/budget, asking people to give their views on the initial budget proposals for 2015/16.
The consultation is taking place against the backdrop of recent warnings by respected organisations such as the Office for Budget Responsibility and the National Audit Office about the impact of ongoing national austerity measures. Leeds City Council has already had to save £248m since 2010, leading Councillor Wakefield to warn of the “grim” decisions needed as the council faces up to further cuts to its core government funding.
The council’s budget proposals were discussed by senior councillors at an executive board meeting yesterday.
Leader of Leeds City Council Councillor Keith Wakefield said:
“The recent National Audit Office report highlighted that government ministers are unaware of the impact of their budget cuts on the services provided by local authorities. I want the council to be as open as possible with Leeds residents about what the cuts mean, which is why I urge people to take part in the consultation and tell us what they think.
“With the Office for Budget Responsibility pointing out that further reductions could see public spending reduced to 1930s levels, it’s imperative that residents take part so they understand the serious impact of austerity on council services.”
The initial proposals include council housing rent increases of 2.88%, fees and charges across the council to increase by at least inflation, a 6% reduction in roads maintenance, leisure centres and council contact centres to operate reduced opening hours, nursery fees up 5.1% and grants to the third sector to be reduced including a 20% drop for arts organisations.
The council itself is to continue to get smaller, with a reduction of a further 475 full-time equivalent (fte) staff by April 2016 taking the number of staff to have left the council to 2,500 since 2010.
The budget consultation will be promoted across the city online as well at libraries, one-stop shops, museums, galleries, leisure centres and GP surgeries. Community groups and the citizen’s panel will also be consulted, while young people and businesses in the city will also be given the chance to have their say.
The webpage www.leeds.gov.uk/budget also includes a video discussion on the budget and the council’s financial position by Councillor Wakefield and chief executive Tom Riordan, as well as an animation about the budget.
The full initial budget proposal report can seen at http://bit.ly/1qpW2kq. The public consultation will run until January 18 before the final budget is confirmed at the full council meeting in February.