Thursday, 4 February 2010

Leeds councillors asked to approve a 2.5 per cent council tax rise

Leeds City Council’s track record for setting some of the lowest council tax rates in the country will continue this year if councillors approve a proposed budget.

It would see the council’s portion of the bill rising by just 2.5 per cent - the lowest increase for 15 years.

Councillor Richard Brett, joint leader and executive board member for resources says the work to agree a budget for the coming financial year has been ‘much tougher than before’ and involved some ‘very difficult decisions’.

As well as reduced government grants, the council’s income is much lower than in previous years because of the current economic conditions.

Revenue from various sources has dropped significantly. The recession has also seriously affected the council’s ability to generate money from the sale of surplus land and buildings, which in the past has been used to invest in services.

Despite that, demand for council services has increased as a direct result of the state of the economy. That has stretched the finances even more than usual.

The 2010 budget includes plans to achieve further savings in things like so-called ‘back office’ functions. At the same time, significant investment is proposed in a number of areas, not least in protecting vulnerable children and adults in Leeds.

Councillor Andrew Carter, leader of Leeds City Council, said:

“2009 was a tough year financially for many people in Leeds and it was tough for the council as well.

“Our income is down too and that means our resources are under a great deal of pressure because of our commitment to deliver first class services to our city.

“Despite that, we’re proposing another year of low council tax increases.

“2.5 per cent isn’t going to be easy for us – we could really do with more, but a higher increase wouldn’t be fair on the hard-pressed people of Leeds.”

Councillor Brett added:

“Setting the 2010 budget has been extremely tough.

“We’ve had to look very closely at what the council does and where it spends its money and that has resulted in some difficult decisions.

“The current economic conditions present us with a significant challenge, but our proposals will still enable the council to maintain and even improve services.

“Keeping the council tax increase as low as possible has also been a priority, so we don’t add to the burden of people in Leeds who are struggling financially.”

Leeds City Council’s executive board will discuss the 2010 budget proposals and council tax increase when it meets on Friday February 12. A final vote will be taken at a gathering of all of the city’s councillors on February 24.

For media enquiries please contact:
Andy Carter, Leeds City Council (0113) 395 0393