Agenda item

Initial Budget Proposals

To receive an update on the proposed budget for 2024/25 and the provisional budgets for 2025/26 and 2026/27, so far as the proposals relate to the remit of the Scrutiny Board (Infrastructure, Investment & Inclusive Growth).


Those in attendance for this item were:


·  Cllr Hayden (Executive Member)

·  Cllr Pryor (Executive Member)

·  Martin Farrington (Director, City Development)

·  Dave Feeney (Chief Planning Officer)

·  Eve Roodhouse (Chief Officer, Economy & Culture)

·  Gary Bartlett (Chief Officer, Transportation & Highways)

·  Jane Walne (Chief Officer, Operations & Active Leeds)

·  Michael Everitt (Head of Finance)


The Chair noted that the Executive Board’s budget proposals were referred to Scrutiny for consideration and comment on 13 December.


Initial working groups were convened for all five Scrutiny Boards in December, so members could discuss the proposals relevant to their respective remits in detail.


The comments and conclusions of all the Scrutiny Boards will be summarised in a joint report that is submitted to the Executive Board in February.


When the Executive Board refers the final budget proposals to Council, its members will need to report how they have taken account of any recommendations made by the Scrutiny Boards.


Michael Everitt provided a summary of the key elements of the budget proposals so far as they relate to the remit of the Scrutiny Board. He reiterated the difference between Service Reviews and Business As Usual savings.


The Chair went on to summarise the issues discussed by the Scrutiny Board in December and invited additional comments and questions, with a view to also capturing those in the joint report to the Executive Board.


The main issues noted as having been discussed in December 2023 were:


-  Future investment in the planning service to ensure the Council can meet new deadlines for accelerated decision making.


-  Engagement with the Trade Unions about potential service redesign and staffing reductions.


-  Members welcomed the innovative approach to securing external funding for services including business support.


-  Assurance was sought about the level of risk in the directorate’s budget proposals.


-  Concern was expressed about staffing reductions, especially where service demand is high, and in income-generating services.


-  Locality Buildings review


-  The extension of arrangements for the West Yorkshire Investment Zone


-  Service redesign


-  Street lighting.


-  Members also recommended the prioritisation framework is shared with members so we can understand the classification of services.


Comments in relation to Housing Advisory Panels were noted and will be provided to the Chair of the Environment, Housing and Communities Scrutiny Board ahead of the meeting on 25 January.


Clarity was sought about the way in which the Voluntary Leavers Scheme will be targeted within the Highways Service Review. It was further confirmed that any requests for early retirement will be considered on a case-by-case basis.


Members were advised that the service has an early indication of potential interest but staff have now been asked to reaffirm whether they wish to be considered for voluntary schemes. Those figures should be available in the coming weeks.


Clarity was sought as to the proportion of staff funded through external income and the degree of potential risk this poses for the work force. An update on this issue will be provided via the Scrutiny Chair.


It was noted that the proportion of civil engineering work associated with the Highways service, provides significant opportunities to recharge officer time to major projects. In Transportation services the capacity to re-charge time is more varied – for example, in the case of community-based work to deliver road safety training.


An overview was provided to members of the rationale behind a recent reallocation of funding to constituent authorities from West Yorkshire Combined Authority.


In response to a Board Member query, Cllr Hayden noted that two Leeds-Wakefield schemes that are being funded by West Yorkshire Combined Authority are currently proposed to be paused at OBC stage due to increased cost pressures.


Assurances were sought about the due diligence carried out on contracts relating to buildings that are being considered for disposal.


Angela Barnicle provided an update on due diligence that has been carried out in relation to contracts linked to Thwaites Mill. 




Members agreed:


a)  To note the content of the report and appendices.


b)  The Principal Scrutiny Advisor will summarise the comments, conclusions and recommendations of the Scrutiny Board in the joint report to the Executive Board in line with the budget consultation process.

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