As we reported in our last post, the income available to Leeds City Council has been reduced dramatically over the last three years – since the LibDem/Tory Coalition came into power.IMG_6176

Since 2011/12 Local Government funding has been reduced nationally by 43%.

Here in Leeds, the Council has felt these pressures. In its attempts to meet the tightened situation the Council has been forced to make huge savings.

In this second of our series of posts on the 2014/15 Leeds Budget, we consider what has been forced on the City over the last three years.

The scale of those cuts is such that a rise in Council tax is now necessary.

The Last Three Years

£200m has already been saved.

First by massive staff reductions

– By the end of March 2013, 1850 staff had left the Council, including a quarter of all senior managers

– 406 more staff have left or will be leaving in 2013/14, and a new early leavers scheme will be launched going through to March 2016

Second by savings on building expenses

– the number of Leeds City Council City centre buildings has been significantly reduced.

Third by securing savings on the Council’s procurement

– over £25m has been saved there.

But, fourth, by service cuts. The level of savings the Coalition’s spending cuts have forced on Leeds cannot be made without impact on services.

The Council was able to transfer 3 libraries and 1 leisure facility to local communities. But savings on the scale imposed by the Coalition have inevitably meant closures. So

– 14 libraries have been closed.

– 2 sports centres have been closed.

– 8 older people’s residential homes and 8 day centres have been closed.

– 2 community centres have been closed.

– 1 one stop centre has been closed.

– 6 hostels have been closed.

It should be underlined that NO days lost to local industrial action during this time.

Savings have been made – but with great reluctance, with no alternative, and at great cost already to the people of Leeds.

The problems faced by the Council are a direct result of the Coalition’s cuts to local government funding.

But they are compounded by other pressures – including by the results of other LibDem/Tory Coalition policies and actions.

Demographic changes have resulted in increases in demand for – and thus costs of – adult social care. Some of these result from positive developments – like increased life expectancy. Others result from the increased complexity of need and service user expectation.

A 32% increase in the birth rate over the last decade has created extra pressure on children’s services – and a growth in child safeguarding referrals has added to that.

But the Coalition’s changes to welfare and benefits have created their own extra costs for local government. There is increasing demand for services and advice relating to welfare and benefits – in recent months calls to the Council Tax and Benefit lines in the Contact centre have increased by 30%.

All this has to be remembered when, for example, local LibDem MPs criticize closures. They have been forced on Leeds Council by the sheer savagery of the LibDem/Tory Coalition’s cuts. The same Coalition’s other policies have had entirely foreseeable knock-on effects for Local Councils. It ill becomes LibDem or Tory MPs to complain about the local results of their own government’s actions.

The result of all this is the situation in which Leeds Council now finds itself. Economies have already been made. Savings have already bitten deep into service provision. It is now necessary to raise the Council Tax.

After three years of freezing council tax in the face of heavy cuts Leeds City Council is having to recommend raising it by 1.99% along with a 5.9% rise in council house rents as it has to make a further £50m in savings.

As the council enters a fourth year of severe cuts to its funding it can no longer afford a council tax freeze.

The impact of three years of LibDem/Tory Coalition cuts has been dire for Leeds and its people. Like so many Councils – especially Northern Councils – Leeds has been hammered. But it is at times like this that we have to be grateful for a Labour administration locally.

In our next post we will deal in more detail with just what the Council’s plans are, and just how it is acting to protect key services.

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