Summary of Leicester City Council’s Proposed Budget

This is a summary of the “Consultation on Leicester City Council’s Budget 2013-2015.” All quotes are taken from the report. The consultation process ran from 12 December 2012 to 21 January 2013.

At present Leicester City Council employs over 14,000 people, with a budget of over £1 billion each year. [1] The Council presently plans to “reduce annual spending by £75 million, and estimate making further cuts of over £50 million per year by 2016.”

With such drastic cuts in the pipeline, cuts to front-line services are apparently “inevitable” and the Con-Dem Coalitions job-slasher-to-hand, Sir Peter Soulsby, makes the misleading claim that the council is being “forced to make cuts in its budgets.” This is lie, and Sir Peter should long and hard about who his real constituents are. He might then consider what type of political alternatives might satisfy his electorate and not just the Con-Dem and his big business friends.

The report under consideration in this article however only deals with the Council’s general fund, whose net budget in 2012/13 was just under £0.3 billion. The Council plan to reduce this budget by by £11 million by 2014/15.

Adult social care: Proposals will see the current £86.8 million budget reduced to £82.5 million. This money is presently used to support older people in need of help with their daily lives; to provide preventative services to help people to live independently and to prevent or delay people from needing adult social care or health-funded services; and provide social care for younger adults with learning, mental health problems and/or physical disabilities.

It is interesting to note that the only areas that will be better funded in the future are those services that are reliant on private sector contractors (which of course the Council is heavily reliant upon). Thus in the face of massive cuts an additional £1 million is being made available to private companies, in response to what the Council says are “growing pressure[s] from residential care providers to increase fees above inflation” (which in this instance will require an extra £660,000 outlay); while the same is true for domiciliary care contracts which “are being put out to tender” with an above-inflation rise expected (which will cost an extra £360,000 a year.)

Proposed cut: £4.3 million; Cut as a percentage of previous budget: 5.0%

Housing: Out of the £7.2 million currently spent on providing this service, the vast majority (£6.6 million) is spent on homelessness. It has been proposed that the £6.6 million for homelessness services should be slashed wholesale to just £4.4 million by 2014/15. For a detailed discussion of these proposed cuts, see my earlier report “Council Cuts Attack the Homeless.”

Proposed cut: £2.2 million; Cut as a percentage of previous budget: 30.6%

Corporate resources and support: The proposal suggests a budget cut from £35.9 million to £33.4 million. Some extra money however will evidently be required “to pay for a new government initiative to send electoral registration information to individuals instead of households” (£200,000 per year); and to make up for “a reduction in advertising income” (£130,000 per year). The latter reduction is justified as the Council observes that their earlier proposals to use their “infrastructure to generate advertising income have not proved possible in a way which is complementary to the visual attractiveness of the city.”

Proposed cut: £2.5 million; Cut as a percentage of previous budget: 7.0%

Education and children’s services: It is proposed that the current budget of £53.7 million should be reduced by £2.2 million by 2014/15. That said, although many services are being cut, only one will be substantially increased. Thus an extra £1.2 million is being provided to meet the costs of growing numbers of children in need, to ensure they are adequately protected in foster care and residential care. The budget for this work will therefore be increased from £8.6 million a year to £9.8 million a year.

Many critical children’s services however will be either cut or reduced. The Council propose that they will no longer providing financial assistance for mainstream post-16 further education students (saving £60,000 a year); and no longer providing financial assistance for post-16 students with special educational needs (saving £175,000 a year).

They also aim to save £60,000 by eliminating all funded playscheme activity for three to 12-year-olds during Easter and half-term holidays. Funding for children’s centres will also be slashed from £6.86 million to £5.18 million by 2014/15.

The budget for providing training for childcare workers in childcare settings will be cut from £300,000 to £200,000. While another £228,000 will be “saved” by “delet[ing]the remaining six childcare and early learning manager posts and transfer responsibilities to other managers and staff in the neighbourhoods.” Combined with these savings, the budget for the provision of part-time youth workers will be cut from £450,000 to £300,000 a year, which will entail more job deletions and will apparently allow the provision of a “more flexible service at times and locations that better meet young people’s needs.”

Finally, the budget for the Bookstart scheme (which provides a free pack of books to every baby and child under the age of four to promote reading) will be reduced by more than half from £111,000 to just £50,000 per year.

Proposed cut: £2.2 million; Cut as a percentage of previous budget: 4.1%

Neighbourhood services: The current budget of £30.9 million may be cut to £30.1 million. The five main strands of activity within this portfolio are environmental services, community services, libraries, customer services, and community safety.

Amongst proposed cuts some ‘bright’ ideas include reducing the book fund for libraries from £534,000 to £485,000. On top of such reductions, other library cuts include what they euphemistically refer to as improving “efficiencies in book procurement by increasing the role of suppliers in book stock selection and administration.” This will reduce the said budget for book procurement from £169,000, to just £108,000 and allow big business distributors to have a greater control over the types of books available in our libraries.

Proposed cut: £0.8 million; Cut as a percentage of previous budget: 2.6%

Culture, heritage, leisure and sport: The budget could be reduced from £12.9 million to £12.4 million. Perhaps the most interesting change is their decision to “Charge £1 per visit to over-60s living in the city for use of leisure facilities, replacing the current free access.” This additional burden on the elderly will come into force next year will only save the council £40,000 a year.

Proposed cut: £0.5 million; Cut as a percentage of previous budget: 3.9%

Economic development, planning and transport: Cuts to this budget are minimal with a suggested reduction of £0.1 million from the current £27.9 million. “Savings are, however, proposed for non-statutory concessionary bus travel for people of pensionable age. The statutory ‘English national concessionary travel scheme’ provides for free travel between 9.30am and 11pm Monday to Friday and at all times at weekends and on bank holidays. As a local enhancement, Leicester has also permitted half-fare travel for older people before 9.30am for bus journeys starting in the city. It is proposed by mid-2014 to remove this local enhancement – as many nearby areas have already done – and cease half-fares for people of pensionable age before 9.30am.”  This scheme will introduced over two years and eventually save the Council £120,000 a year.

Proposed cut: £0.1 million; Cut as a percentage of previous budget: 0.4%

FOOTNOTE
[1] This £1 billion budget is split between: the general fund which meets the running costs of most services (£0.5 billion); housing benefit payments (£0.1 billion); schools (£0.2 billion); housing revenue account which allows for the provision of council housing (£0.1 billion); and capital which is allocated for longer-term work like building projects (£0.1 billion).

The Council write that: “The net budget of the general fund in 2012/13 is £288 million. This is the amount we spend after taking away fees, charges and grants given for  specific purposes. The money comes from: General government grant – £183 million; Council tax – £98 million; and Reserves – £7 million.”

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