Well, the bad news is here.
Leeds had anticipated more budget cuts from the Tory government – and we got them – and even more than we’d expected,
Leeds is to receive approximately £35m less in core funding from the government – £10m worse than the expected figure. Coupled with lower yields from business rates, that will leave the city looking for savings of £76m. That’s a cut of 12.5% for 2016/17 – higher than the 10.5% average for the other core cities. 10.5% is bad enough – especially after years of cutting by the LibDem/Tory Coalition – 12.5% is savage.
We’ve been clobbered – and unfairly.
Judith Blake, Labour’s Leader of Leeds City Council, has spoken of her concern for the future of public services in the face of yet another year of significant funding cuts.
This new round of savagery means that public services are now ‘pushed to their breaking point”.
The news-worthy floods have shown up the failure to fund what the city needs. The provision of social care and public health may be less high profile – but the effects of cuts here is very worrying indeed.
Councillor Blake spoke as budget proposals to deliver the savings of over £76million for 2016/17 were released this week ahead of next week’s executive board meeting.
The budget report details the financial position for next year. This includes the Council receiving approximately £35m less in core funding from the government, compounded by a reduction of nearly £13m in the business rates the Council collects due to a high level of appeals being determined by the Valuation Office. Add these to rising costs and demand for services, and you can see why the council needs to find savings in excess of £76m next year.
The reduction of government funding continues the trend begun under the LibDem/Tory Coalition, which has seen Leeds City Council receive more than £180m less in core funding, a drop of more than 40 per cent, since 2010.
Using the government’s overall ‘spending power’ indicator, Leeds will be 3.6 per cent worse off next year compared to a loss of 2.8 per cent as the national average.
As Judith Blake says, the lack of investment by the government in comprehensive flood defences in 2011 shows the potential devastating impact of the under-resourcing of public services.
“Sadly our great city is still dealing with the devastating impact and damage of the Boxing Day floods. We are now facing another major challenge in terms of how to handle the ongoing cuts to our funding which this year means we need to make savings of more than £76million.
“Having seen at first-hand the effect of the failure to fund the necessary level of flood defences the city needs, it is a real concern that far less money is available at a time when demand for public services is on the increase. As with the flood defence budgets, under-resourcing public services is a false economy that stores up problems for the future. The long-term need for services such as health and social care will only increase as preventative services, such as those funded through public health budgets, are drastically cut.
“We have seen in recent weeks council leaders from across the political divide, in all areas of the country, speak out against the effect of cuts on local government, which I think shows the cuts are now pushing services to their breaking point.
“Again Leeds has been hit harder than many other local authority areas and the national average. This cannot be fair, year after year. No-one should be under any illusions that this is going to be anything other than an incredibly difficult time for delivering much-needed public services. That said, as a council we will do all we can to minimise the effect of the cuts on vulnerable people. Our aim is for Leeds to remain a caring and compassionate city built on a strong economy focused on tackling inequality and promoting opportunity for all.
“When it comes to profile and being attractive to global investors, in economic terms Leeds as a city continues to go from strength to strength which is very pleasing, and we are committed to ensuring that growth develops in the years to come bringing with it more new jobs and apprenticeships. The difficulty is that with reduced budgets council tax and our other funding streams are being stretched more and more each year with our public health and social care budgets being particularly worrying.
“With the role of the council changing especially in terms of its size and resources, now is the right time to have conversations with all elements of the city about the best way forward for the future. The focus will be especially on how we can work more with partners and residents on new ways of achieving more effective results rather than simply providing services for people using the traditional methods, as in many cases that will no longer be possible. ”
So there we are – there’s no way of sugar-coating this Tory pill that’s being forced down the throat of our great city.
It’s a pretty poisonous concoction, and the government shows very little concern about whether the patient survives.