Council budget discussions include allotment charges and golf course future

On Friday the Council’s Executive Board meets to consider the Council’s budget for the coming year. Buried in the detail are clues about what will happen to allotment charges and the future of golf courses and bowling greens.

civic_hall_2The budget report includes comments from the Council’s Scrutiny Boards that in the past a full year’s notice has been given of any planned increase to allotment charges and recommends that the Executive Board consider whether a phased approach might be more appropriate.

We know that the Council has already agreed to defer possible closure of Middleton Park and Gotts Park Golf Courses by a year. The Scrutiny Boards recommend that:

“more detailed evidence is brought back to the Executive Board to demonstrate that all other viable options, such as charging increases and asset transfer opportunities, aimed at reducing the expenditure of these courses have been thoroughly appraised and consulted upon.”

In terms of the maintenance of bowling greens the Scrutiny Boards noted that the Council is exploring ways to reduce costs. Currently this equates to a subsidy of £133 per bowler. It welcomed the proposal:

“to explore opportunities for transferring on-going Bowling Green maintenance to some of the existing bowling clubs that have a high number of active members”.

Council Tax Rise?

The report to Friday’s meeting proposes no increase to the Leeds element of council tax bills, although we know the new Police & Crime Commissioner for West Yorkshire is proposing an increase on this year’s levels on the police element to fund extra police on the street. The Council could choose to increase council tax by up to 2.0% without being required to hold a referendum, but they would lose Council Tax Freeze Grant if it is increased at all.

Funding from central government for 2013/14 has reduced by over 9% (£32 million) compared to this year’s contribution.  Cllr Keith Wakefield, Leader of the Council has stated that Leeds has had the worse settlement of any core city in the country except Bristol.

The budget assumes staff salary increases of 1% and a 0.2 % increase in pension costs. It is projected that staffing reductions equaling costs of £4.5m will be made in the coming year with a loss equivalent to over 300 full time jobs. At over £783 million (including schools) staffing costs amount to 40% of the Council’s total expenditure.  Excluding school staffing costs the average employee cost is approximately £33,000.

The Council proposes to use £2.5 million of its reserves and estimates they will amount to £18 million at 31 March 2014. It is proposed that there is a 5.9% increase in Council rents.

The Executive Board’s decisions will be recommended to a meeting of the full Council at the end of this month.

Full details of and papers for the Executive Board meeting can be found on the Council’s website.

If you want to discuss any of these issues with your Councillor, you can find contact details here.


This article was written by Stephen Williamson.