Hundreds facing axe as councils cut back further

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Hundreds of jobs will be lost in Yorkshire and services will be cut as two of the region’s biggest councils look to make savings of more than £75m.

Leeds City Council has announced it needs to find £55.4m in savings and plans to cut 400 jobs this year – part of the 2,500 full-time posts it needs to cut by 2015 – in a move which will save the authority almost £10m this financial year.

And in York, council bosses will today announce their two-year budget, which has been described as the most difficult in a generation as the authority looks to make £22m of cuts over the next two years.

The councils are seeking savings to help to cope with cuts to Government grants. Last year Leeds City Council had to make cuts of £90m. Last night its leader, Coun Keith Wakefield, warned: “decisions are getting tougher and tougher.”

He said: “Everyone will be aware that last year’s financial challenge, in terms of savings we needed to make, was unprecedented in its severity. We had to make lots of exceptionally difficult and painful decisions, and I’m afraid the bad news is that the challenge facing us is only going to get tougher in the years to come. We will keep having to make cuts to an annual budget getting ever smaller.

“This year we have again focused on protecting the most vulnerable members of our communities, and doing what we can to limit both price rises and cuts to frontline services. We are committed to doing all we can to protect these services but our challenge remains a significant one.”

In Leeds, the cuts include saving £190,000 by switching to fortnightly bin collections, while encouraging recycling to save on landfill costs.

In York, the council says the two- year budget will see an increase in spending on elderly care and children in care of £2m as well as protecting the funding for Visit York, responsible for promoting the city’s vital tourism sector.

But campaign group York Stop the Cuts claims there has been a lack of consultation over the proposals, which will have a disproportionate effect on the poor.

Campaigner Nick Smith said: “This council budget represents a serious attack on jobs and local services in York.

“It will lead to vital services disappearing, and those that are left will be dramatically under-resourced.

“The budget will disproportionately affect the poorest and most vulnerable in our city, those that use and need these services most.”

The group is organising a public protest outside the council budget setting meeting from 6pm on February 23.

Leader of the Labour council, Coun James Alexander said: “The scale of Government cuts is so large that there will be reductions in some services, but we are prioritising elderly care and children in care, whilst still ensuring that provision is made to deliver on our manifesto by stripping out Liberal Democrat waste.”

In Leeds, the council has also opted to accept the Government’s one-off grant in order to freeze the council element of council tax bills for 2012/13.

Coun Wakefield added: “The decision to accept the Government’s council tax freeze grant was a difficult one due to uncertainty over the impact next year but we think it is right to help families who are struggling. In the case of housing rents we have tried to be as fair as we can to help people as much as we can.”

The council leader also stressed the authority’s commitment to helping young people in the city gain employment and said £1.75m had been set aside to help deliver jobs, training and apprenticeships, such as the creation of an apprenticeship partnership with Leeds City College.

Investment will also be made in tackling derelict and nuisance sites in the city and funding levels for police community support officers are to be maintained.

joanne.ginley@ypn.co.uk

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