‘Invest in Bradford so we can balance the books’

Susan Hinchcliffe
Susan Hinchcliffe
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MINISTERS need to invest Government cash in Bradford if it is to balance its books by the end of the decade, the city’s council leader has warned.

Coun Susan Hinchcliffe called for the Government to support the city’s efforts to grow the business rates it generates by investing in better infrastructure.

All councils have been told their main Government grant will be cut to zero by 2020 with authorities expected to support themselves through business rates and council tax income.

Northern councils have historically been more dependent on Government grants because of higher levels of poverty and poorer local economies leaving them with a bigger budget gap to fill than authorities in more prosperous parts of the country.

Bradford Council today published its draft budget for next year which included plans to close all public toilets except one and removing its support for the Jamie Oliver Ministry of Food project.

The authority is considering cutting 416 jobs and asking local people to run their community hall or allow them to close.

Coun Hinchcliffe said: “We have a budget that balances by 2020 but there is still a lot of work to be done to achieve that.

“You can only cut so far to get yourself into a place where you can spend the right amount of money to deliver the services you want to.

“I do need to grow business rates but to do that I need the Government to invest in infrastructure seriously.

“Something like the Bradford stop on Northern Powerhouse Rail is vital for us to see an increase in the land values and therefore the business rates that will come into the district.

“We are 530,000 people and we have had not had adequate infrastructure to connect us to economic opportunities and that is reflected in the low business rates that we have.

“That needs to change. I need to see Theresa May to act on her commitment to make sure that regional cities would prosper under her leadership.

“I have yet to see it but I am still hopeful that it will happen.”

While Bradford will lose government grant worth £183m by 2020, the city’s income from business rates is only forecast to rise by £7.3m over the same period.

The authority is expected to raise council tax by 1,99 per cent, the maximum allowed by the Government without a public referendum.

It will also add the two per cent precept brought in by then Chancellor George Osborne last year so councils can raise additional money to pay for elderly care.

If the authority continues to raise council tax every year until 2020 it will generate an extra £2.3m by the end of the decade.

The council has begun a consultation on next year’s Budget which includes proposals to save £8m in adult social care, reduce cleaning teams, delete the post of deputy lord mayor and cut a fifth from the district’s festivals and events budget.

It is promising to protect museums and children’s centres.