Council taxpayers in Kirklees will again pay the maximum 4.99% increase from April – as councillors agreed a new budget to avoid effective bankruptcy and a fate that’s befallen several other local authorities.

Kirklees Council has approved its new budget for 2024-25 having faced a £47 million shortfall last year.

The council has found savings of around £34.5 million, helped by the return of almost £10 million from West Yorkshire Combined Authority from a fund earmarked for transport infrastructure projects.

Overall the council is now predicting an overspend of £9.9 million and there are difficult times still ahead, not least over job losses as services are reduced.

The Customer Service Centres in Huddersfield and Dewsbury are to be absorbed into the libraries and the two Register Offices for births, marriages and deaths are to be merged into one, based in Huddersfield.

Charges for everything the council does will rise by at least the rate of inflation – that’s everything from emptying garden bins to allotment rents, residential parking permits to car parking charges.

The next big battle to be fought is over the ending of free car parking in smaller town centres and villages.

Westgate Car Park in Honley. Image by: SEAN DOYLE

The budget means council tax for residents will increase by 2.99% with a further 2% increase earmarked for social care services for older residents and local people with disabilities. In total, this means an additional £1.71 per week for an average Band D property.

After the controlling Labour Group’s budget was approved at the Budget Meeting on Wednesday night, council leader Clr Cathy Scott said the council had targeted its support at the most vulnerable.

“Councils across the country are setting their budgets in some of the most difficult circumstances in living memory,” she said. “We’ve had to take painful decisions to give the council financial stability.

“But, at the same time, we’ve tried to stay true to our values. That means focusing our resources on the people who need our support most.

“It also means modernising and transforming services to make them as efficient as we can. And it means continuing to invest in our future, to bring jobs and opportunities to families and communities in every part of Kirklees.”

Clr Graham Turner, Cabinet member for finance and regeneration, said: “All our services, from safeguarding children to emptying bins, rely on stable funding. That’s why it’s been so important to deliver a balanced budget for residents.

“The alternative to a balanced budget would be worse for residents, local services and hard-working council staff.

“Since the cost-of-living crisis first hit, we’ve been reducing our costs relentlessly. We’ve frozen all but the most essential recruitment and spending. We’ve reviewed our investment programme and our use of buildings.

“But the challenges for all councils are bigger than that. That’s why we set out a long-term plan in the autumn that would reduce spending to match the pressures we face. This budget achieves that fundamental responsibility.

“Local government lives from hand to mouth, despite it delivering the services that we all rely on from looking after vulnerable children to providing adult social care, waste disposal and maintaining roads.

“Relying on funding from Government for one year at a time makes it difficult to plan for the long term and deal with growing demand for services.

“We need a fair funding settlement that is for several years so that we can plan ahead and not be constantly budgeting for a single year.”