Labour-controlled Kirklees Council has confirmed that the council tax will rise by the maximum 4.99% from April.
The council’s Cabinet member for corporate services Clr Paul Davies said the council faced a £43 million deficit for 2023-24 due to “extraordinary economic pressures.”
Clr Davies told the council’s budget meeting that £25 million would be taken from the council’s cash reserves and another £19 million in savings would be sought across all departments.
That was on top of savings of almost £5 million made in the final months of the current financial year with a review of spending, a jobs freeze on all but essential recruitment and a move to ensure all buildings are used efficiently.
Proposing the Labour budget, Clr Davies said: “In the context of chaos and uncertainty our budget brings stability. But stability is not just about balancing the books or keeping accountants happy, it’s the foundation of vital services for residents in all parts of Kirklees.
“Residents want us to make sure children are protected and make sure older people and those with disabilities get the care they need and they want us to invest. We cannot do that without a stable financial platform.
“Given the circumstances our efforts to deliver stability in next year’s budget – and beyond – begins right now. We owe it to our residents to deliver that efficiency.
“Like the majority of councils across the country, and every council in West Yorkshire, we are asking residents to pay an extra 2.99% in council tax. A further 2% will go directly into care services for older people and residents with disabilities through the Government’s adult social care precept.
“In the context of an ageing population, a crisis in our NHS and increasing numbers of residents with complex needs it’s essential to deliver stable funding for these vital services.
“In total it’s a 4.99% council tax increase, an extra £1.63 each week for households in a Band D property.
“We have had to take tough actions to reduce costs and raise revenues but that tough action gives us options. It gives us the space to invest in what really matters to us and our residents. Budgets are not just about accountancy, they are about values.
“This is a budget with frontline services at its heart. The budget protects the library network, the budget gives a lifeline to leisure centres with a £6m lifeline for Kirklees Active Leisure, and we know we need to keep supporting families and households in the cost-of-living crisis.”
The Conservatives, Liberal Democrats and Green Party also tabled alternative budgets.
The Tories proposed a council tax rise of 1% less than Labour’s and pledged to reverse cuts to tip opening times; bring back Christmas bin collections; cancel cuts to the winter maintenance budget; and introduce free parking for the first 30 minutes to encourage shoppers to support local towns and villages.
Deputy Tory leader Clr John Taylor (Kirkburton) said the Cabinet was not ambitious enough about improving services that people need in their everyday lives.
“When things get tough they (Labour) do what they always do – push up council tax to the maximum whilst claiming they know how tough it is for people,” he said.
“It’s easy to propose big, grandiose ideas but at the same time they cannot get the bins emptied at Christmas.
“They talk about the Cultural Heart in Huddersfield and nice shiny new buildings but what confidence does anyone, other than the Cabinet, have in their ability to deliver?
“When you reflect on some of the recent scandals, the cost of the George Hotel or the mismanagement of our investment in the stadium and the mixed messages over our leisure centres it doesn’t bode well.”
The Lib Dems’ budget amendment included; additional investment in highways infrastructure; the introduction of free bulky waste collections; additional resources for the Planning department; and a commitment to safeguarding some of the borough’s local heritage for future generations.
Lib Dem leader Clr John Lawson (Cleckheaton) said: “It is difficult to amend the administration’s budget this year. The council has been starved of cash for a number of years and is now effectively forced by the Government to use a significant chunk of its reserves.
“The council is operating against a backdrop of enormous financial turmoil and uncertainty. Our overriding aim in setting the budget as a council is to protect the essential frontline council services.”
The Green Party budget included: a trial on council enforcement of moving traffic offences; establishing a council-owned company to help householders improve their homes; the generation of renewable energy to support leisure centres; more traffic calming measures for residential roads; and the creation of community-based care co-operatives.
Green Party leader Clr Andrew Cooper (Newsome) said the Green budget was the Labour budget that Labour didn’t put forward.
Labour’s budget was approved with all three amendments voted down.