Tuesday, 10 December 2013

Leeds City Council considers initial budget proposals for 2014/15

Leeds City Council is having to consider a council tax rise of 2% following a three-year freeze in order to help reduce the impact of continued budget cuts and increased demand on frontline services.

Another 274 job losses along with further reductions in services are also proposed as the council faces cuts of around £81m in government funding over the next two years.

In the coming financial year 2014/15 the government has cut the council’s funding by £36m on top of the council having already had to cope with government grants reductions of £94m over the past three years.

During that time the council has done everything it can to reduce spending in areas such as staffing costs, service changes, rationalising buildings and more efficient ways of working. Great efforts have gone into this in order to protect frontline services as far as possible.

Councillor Keith Wakefield, leader of Leeds City Council, said:
“The past few years have been incredibly difficult and we have shouldered our share of significant funding reductions. This is a dire financial situation and no-one in public service wants to reduce or stop providing services but we’ve reached the point where we have to start thinking the unthinkable- all options have to be on the table.

“We cannot continue to freeze council tax as it reduces our income to the point where it threatens our ability to support even the services we must provide by law. While we have fought hard to protect council services and will continue to do so, we can no longer afford to guarantee there will be no compulsory redundancies in the future.

“We have had to cut and reduce services in a way that no-one who enters public service ever wants to do. Our hard-working, dedicated staff- more than 40% of whom did not have a single day off sick last year- are incredibly committed to improving services and helping us reduce costs while they have seen many of their colleagues leave and not be replaced.

“However, the more efficient we become the harder it is to achieve further savings, especially in the face of the apparent widening gap between north and south and disparities in funding between regions*. This will present even tougher challenges with further cuts to our funding of around 15% in 2015/16. Yet we are as determined as ever to continue to drive growth, jobs and a real future for the city and its people.

“Everyone has to work harder than ever as they struggle to cope with rising costs and as more people are slipping into poverty it puts increasing demands on frontline public services to be the backbone providing crucial support to communities. Our reduced funds have to be put into supporting the people who really need it- and our residents have repeatedly told us that they share that view.”

The report shows that supporting vulnerable people is again the council’s top priority. This is in line with what local people said was most important to them with the biggest response to date to the YouChoose consultation used to help draw up the proposals.

Spending on adults’ and children’s services currently takes up almost 60% of the council’s budget and this will continue to go up.

Top of the list of service spending that people wanted to be protected were children’s social care, special educational needs and disability services and adult mental health. This is largely similar to the previous year, as were efficiency savings suggestions such as better waste management, less frequent bin collections, lower staff numbers and salaries and improvements to how the council works.

This has been demonstrated over the past three years as more than 1,800 jobs have gone, including a quarter of all senior managers and the number of council buildings in the city centre is being significantly reduced. Around £25m has been saved by improving procurement practices- spending on goods and services. The council has looked at ways to try to increase income, with initiatives such as setting up a company called Civic Enterprise Leeds. This allows the council to be able to raise money by trading some of its key services, such as catering and payroll, to other organisations.

As an example of how the council is actively attempting to make savings while getting the best out of services, it estimates it will save £5.8m next year through its work to support families, helping children who may otherwise have to be looked after to stay at home.

These considerable savings have been made while the council strives to become more efficient and enterprising, maintain high quality public services, promote sustainable, inclusive economic growth, support older people to live in their own homes for longer, become a city that is child-friendly and deal effectively with the city’s waste. It also continues to push for further devolution of powers from Whitehall on areas such as transport, apprenticeships and jobs skills training.

The budget proposals will be received by the council's executive board on December 18 and then issued for consultation, at which point further information will be given on how people can make their views known. Following consultation the proposals will then be revised before being brought back to the full council for consideration on February 26 2014.

Notes to editors:
*A report produced in the summer by the Special Interest Group of Metropolitan Authorities (SIGOMA) indicated that while the rest of the English regions have had their resources cut by £4.5billion in the last three years, London and the South East have seen their budgets rise by £235m in the same period. For more details on the ‘A Fair Future?’ report, released in June, visit www.sigoma.gov.uk/

For media enquiries please contact:
Donna Cox, Leeds City Council press office, 0113- 224 3335
Email donna.cox@leeds.gov.uk

City to pay tribute to Nelson Mandela at Leeds Minster service

Caption: Nelson Mandela pictured at the opening of Millennium Square in Leeds in 2001

The people of Leeds will be invited to celebrate the life of Nelson Mandela during a special service at Leeds Minster this week.

The commemorative service will take place at the Minster on Thursday (December 12) at 6pm and follows Mandela’s death last week.

It will be conducted by the Rt. Revd. John Packer, Bishop of Ripon and Leeds, and Canon Tony Bundock, Rector of Leeds.

Civic leaders including Councillor Keith Wakefield, leader of Leeds City Council and Cllr Thomas Murray, Lord Mayor of Leeds, will attend the service alongside the council’s chief executive Tom Riordan.

The tribute will feature music from the Minster Choir, the Free Range Choir, the Gledhow Choir of African Song, Garforth Academy with the Mzuvele School Choir, and St Peter's School in Lincoln Green.

The event has been organised by Leeds Minster alongside the council and Leeds Churches Together in Mission.

The Rt Revd John Packer said:

"This is an opportunity for the city to celebrate the immense contribution Nelson Mandela made over the years to justice, to freedom, to showing forgiveness and to a sense throughout the world of equality and humanity.

“This is a time of mourning but also of celebration, and this service can be a celebration of his life and a reminder that there still is the pursuit of justice within our world."

Although the service will be conducted in the Christian tradition, the commemoration is to include contributions from other faiths represented in the city.

Cllr Keith Wakefield said:

“The worldwide outpouring of grief following the death of Nelson Mandela is a true testament to the impact this exceptional man had on people across the globe.

“Here in Leeds, residents around the city have paid tribute to him in their own ways, be that signing books of condolence, laying flowers at Mandela Gardens or writing poems.

“This church service is now an opportunity for people of any faith to gather together and celebrate the life and legacy of Nelson Mandela and show just how much he was loved and respected in our city.”

In April 2001, Nelson Mandela officially opened Leeds’ Millennium Square and visited the nearby Mandela Gardens.

As part of the visit, the former South African president and anti-apartheid campaigner received the Freedom of the City of Leeds.

The Nobel Peace Prize winner died at his home in Houghton, Johannesburg on December 5 at the age of 95.

Books of Condolence have been opened in the Lady Chapel at the Minster, The Mandela Centre and Reginald Centre on Chapeltown Road and Leeds Civic Hall for members of the public to sign.

The Minster is open Mondays to Fridays from 9am to 3pm, and on Saturdays from 9am to 1pm.


- Leeds Minster is on Kirkgate, Leeds, LS2 7DJ

- For more information or to arrange pictures and filming, please contact:

Canon John Carter,
Press and Communications Officer
Diocese of Ripon and Leeds
Tel: 07798 652707


Stuart Robinson
Communications Officer
Leeds City Council
Tel: 0113 224 3937
Email: stuart.robinson@leeds.gov.uk

Good progress being made with new bin service

Nearly half of all homes in Leeds now have their green recycling bin picked up more frequently.

Early indications show that the latest residents to receive the new bin service are adapting well to the changes.

Another 113,000 households recently switched to the more frequent green bin collections and the majority of residents have taken the change in their stride.

Green bins are now picked up one week and black bins the next week from 48% of homes across Leeds.

The new bin service is central to the council’s plans to help the city recycle 55% of waste by 2016.

An information pack was sent to residents to help them prepare for the changes. Recycling advisers have been providing guidance in the run up to the new service starting.

The recycling advisers can now be seen out and about supporting residents and crews on bin collection days. They will continue to provide dedicated help where needed.

Over the coming weeks the actual amounts of waste in black bins and recycling in green bins will be closely monitored.

With the ongoing support of residents, more waste can be recycled. With less rubbish languishing in landfill, the council will save significant amounts on landfill tax; money that can be spent on vital council services.

It’s anticipated that the council will save £2.5 million a year once the service is rolled out to 80% of the city.

Councillor Mark Dobson, executive member for the environment, said:

“It’s still early days for this second phase of the new bin service. However, there’s no reason to doubt that if residents continue to make the most of their green bins and more frequent collections, we’ll be right on track to make the anticipated savings.

“We took a considered, phased approach to rolling the new bin service out to give people the time and support they need to adapt. By taking on board lessons learned, we believe this approach is working.

“Should anyone have trouble adapting to the new service, help is and will continue to be available.”

In the first few weeks of the service starting, crews are taking a practical approach to extra bags put out with black bins.

Crews are stickering bins where extra waste is left so residents know that in time crews will cease collecting these bags as residents maximise the use of their green recycling bin.

Details of the new service can be found at www.leeds.gov.uk/newbinservice or www.facebook.com/leedswastedocs or by following @leedswastedocs on Twitter.

Bin collection days can be checked at www.leeds.gov.uk/residents/Pages/Check-your-bin-day.aspx.

Information on what can be recycled at household waste sorting sites and bring sites can be found at www.leeds.gov.uk/recyclingsites.

For media enquiries please contact:
Amanda Burns, Leeds City Council press office (0113) 395 1577
email: amanda.l.burns@leeds.gov.uk