Message from Tom Riordan
This is the time of year when the thoughts of local authorities turn to setting our budgets for the next financial year.
Here at Leeds City Council we’ve achieved very substantial savings already, without significant impact on front line services, a day lost to local industrial action or a compulsory redundancy. The council has also markedly increased its productivity. But the challenge facing us will get tougher as we have to keep making cuts to an annual budget that is getting ever smaller. For 2013/14 we already know that our funding from the government will reduce again and we will need to make big savings, estimated to be around £40m.
The Council has recognised that we really need to start thinking in new, different, challenging and innovative ways to ensure the citizens of Leeds can access the services they need. The way we’re approaching this new challenge is called Budget Plus and it is aiming to achieve two distinct but related objectives. First, we have to produce a detailed annual budget for 2013/14 – this is business as usual.
But equally importantly, and quite differently to the norm, we need to create a narrative and be able to describe the likely resource allocation across the Council in up to four years time. This reflects the current political and economic landscape and our forecasts of how changing circumstances will have an impact on the way in which we can provide services. As part of the Budget Plus process we are looking again at our services, challenging all parts of the Council to be bold and radical in our thinking, and innovative in our approaches to change. We recognise that our service planning needs to reflect our aspirations to be a more enterprising Council, and reflect how we will work more closely with partners, including the private sector, in delivering services. This will help us to fulfil our vision of civic enterprise which some of you will have heard me talk about before.
With that in mind, you won’t be surprised to hear that I have something to ask of you. First, and as a short term priority, we welcome any feedback you - or your council-tax paying employees - can give us about our priorities in setting the 2013/14 budget. You have the opportunity to directly inform the budget through an online, interactive tool which takes you through the challenges we face and the ways in which we work, and enables you to give your view on what we should be doing differently or spending our money elsewhere. The consultation tool will be on our website soon.
We’d also like to offer opportunities for businesses to offer their views not just on the imminent budget but looking ahead to building the longer term narrative, and in a more conversational setting. I’m up for hosting a round table session, with input from senior LCC colleagues, for businesses who would be interested in getting involved in some of this thinking. We’ve already done something similar around future investment planning, facilitated by the Chamber, and it’s been helpful in informing our thinking and challenging our plans. If this would be of interest then please email Mark Goldstone (firstname.lastname@example.org) who will register your interest and get in touch.
This is a budget for the city of Leeds, not just Leeds City Council. The more we hear from the city – businesses and residents – the more effectively we can shape the services we deliver to meet your needs. We’re listening; this is your opportunity to tell us what you think.