Leicester City Council tax to rise, but jobs face axe
Leicester City Council is to make £19m of cuts, axe up to 270 posts and increase council tax by 8% over the next three years.
Yesterday, the council revealed its draft budget which includes proposals to reduce sports centre opening hours, cut bus routes and introduce charges for day care centres.
Libraries could be moved into leisure centres and the city will no longer take part in the Britain in Bloom competition.
In 2010/11, council tax will rise by 1.9%, with a 2.9% increase the year after and also in 2012/13. The 1.9% increase would mean the two-thirds of city residents who live in band A properties would pay £15 more each year.
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The Labour administration said it need to make the cuts because of an anticipated 2% reduction in Government grants over the next few years.
Council leader Ross Willmott said: "I think we have come up with an exceptional budget considering the financial climate."
He said there would "be a few" compulsory redundancies, but that staff would be asked to reduce their hours alongside a recruitment freeze.
This would be on top of reducing the use of agency workers and consultants by £2m.
The budget includes provision for no pay increase for staff between 2011 to 2013.
Under the proposals, around 10 bus routes subsidised by the council could be dropped.
One example given was the Leicester-Anstey Martin route, which is jointly funded by the city and county councils. It costs the county £34,000 a year to run and is already under threat.
The adult social care budget of £81m would be cut by £8m.
This means some of the 275 people who use the city's six day centres could be charged to attend and eventually the centres could close to save on costs.
Leisure centres and museums will be reviewed to see where hours could be reduced – saving the council up to £143,000 by 2013.
Libraries could relocated at nearby council-owned venues to save on costs.
Cabinet member for leisure and culture, Councillor Andy Connelly, said one example would be selling off the Aylestone library site and moving the service to the Aylestone leisure centre nearby.
The library, in Belvoir Street, would also move to the reference library, in Bishop Street.
The Belvoir Street building would then be used as an advice centre for unemployed people.
In total, these library savings, which would involve staff redundancies, would amount to £376,000 by 2013.
Leicester would also pull out of the Britain in Bloom competition because it has axed the urban regeneration category.
This would save £75,000, but Coun Connelly emphasised this would not mean floral displays would disappear.
Gary Garner, of the Unison union, said: "The idea that there are an acceptable number of job losses is flawed and serves to detract from the real issues, which are about spending priorities."
The council plans to honour a manifesto promise of free laptops for primary school children in a £500,000 pilot scheme and spend £200,000 on a refurbishment of De Montfort Hall.
The city centre's Christmas decorations will also be replaced to the tune of £70,000.
The job cuts will come from across the council, with the majority being found among administration and financial staff.
Leader of the opposition Councillor Ross Grant said Labour had dipped into its cash reserves of £6.5m and was using it to pay for the low council tax increase for one year.
He said: "It is gimmicky and you can tell it's a General Election year."
Councillor Peter Coley, leader of the Liberal Democrat group, said: "It's a political budget – it seems they are not making provisions for Government cuts."
The city council want to slice £19m, or 7%, from a £280m pot, removing up to 270 posts out of 7,000, excluding school staff, by 2013, with 177 of these gone over the next 12 months.
The city council's current budget is £271m and this will rise to £278m in 2010/11 and £280m in 2012/13.