Council taxpayers in Kirklees face a 4.99% rise from April as Kirklees Council grapples with a £43 million hole in its finances.

The council tax rose 2.99% last year but will rise by 4.99% this year, the maximum allowed by the Government.

Kirklees Council’s ruling Labour group has published a ‘budget for stability’ as it attempts to address what it calls an “extraordinary increase in costs.”

It will attempt to plug the gap in its budget by using £25 million from its cash reserves while £19 million in savings will be sought across all council departments.

The council has already implemented a ‘jobs freeze’ which means only roles which impact ‘life and limb’ services will be filled.

The council has announced a £6 million support package for Kirklees Active Leisure (KAL), which runs the district’s 12 sports and leisure centres. KAL had to introduce urgent cost-savings at the end of the current financial year to avoid potential collapse. Read more about that HERE.

The budget also protects core services for Kirklees children, older people and residents with disabilities.

Alongside funding for day-to-day services, the budget will continue to invest in the local economy with £191m in capital spending for Kirklees in the coming year, including work to improve infrastructure, roads and renew the local economy.

Work underway in New Street in Huddersfield town centre

Due to unprecedented increases in inflation and energy costs, the council faces a budget gap of £43m as it approaches the new financial year.

To close the gap and balance its books, the council will deliver £19m in efficiency savings across its services in the next financial year and use £25m of its reserves as part of its £373m annual net revenue budget.

As energy and inflationary pressures began to mount in the autumn, the council put in place emergency measures to reduce costs, including a reduction in recruitment and a review of how it uses its buildings.

Those controls on budgets will continue into the new financial year with savings to be found from managing staff vacancies and by reducing building costs. Further savings and plans to increase income are spread across service areas.

If endorsed by a meeting of all Kirklees councillors on March 8, the proposals would mean an increase in council tax of 2.99% with an additional 2% raised through the Government’s Adult Social Care Precept to fund services for older people and those with disabilities.

The total 4.99% increase means an additional £1.63 per week for residents who live in a Band D property. The council tax increase in Kirklees matches proposals for every council in West Yorkshire.

The budget proposals will be debated by the Cabinet on February 21. If they are endorsed at that meeting, they will be presented to a meeting of all councillors for debate on March 8. The new budget will come into effect at the start of the new financial year on April 1 2023.

Clr Paul Davies, Cabinet member for corporate services, said: “The last financial year has been one of the most turbulent anyone can remember. The cost-of-living crisis and economic mess have put enormous pressure on the council’s finances. This budget brings stability in challenging circumstances.

“We’ve prioritised the people and services that need our help most. That means protecting social care services for older people and residents who have disabilities.

“It means investing in children who need extra support to thrive. And it means continuing to invest in our economy to bring opportunity and guard against future cost-of-living crises.

“If the past year’s economic turmoil has proved anything, it’s that budgets need to add up. That means taking tough decisions and being honest about the challenges. That’s why our plans mean savings in virtually every part of the council.

“We will focus those savings on back-office operations to minimise any direct impact on residents. But we can’t underestimate the scale of the financial challenge that remains.”

Clr Shabir Pandor

Clr Shabir Pandor, leader of Kirklees Council, said: “In this budget, we have taken the necessary steps to bring stability to the council’s finances. Budget stability isn’t just about numbers and spreadsheets. It underpins all the vital services we deliver to people across Kirklees.

“This budget protects services that residents value most while taking the difficult decisions needed in this harsh economic climate.

“Our budget puts the council on a sound financial footing but we need change, at a national level, to safeguard services in the long term.

“The historic underfunding of Kirklees must end and our whole sector needs a long-term solution to social care costs.

“We also need the kind of investment in our infrastructure that stimulates a thriving economy. Without these kinds of changes, we will be heading into a new era of austerity, which is the last thing the residents of Kirklees need during a cost-of-living crisis.”