Kirklees Council has announced an emergency seven-point plan to save up to £50 million over the next year.
The council is facing a budget shortfall of £47 million and has already warned of up to 750 job losses.
A report to the council’s Cabinet says: “The seriousness of the council’s financial position cannot be understated.”
Last year the council had a £43.2 million hole in its budget which was filled by making £18.6 million in savings and taking £24.6 million from its cash reserves.
Its reserves are now down to £31.8 million and the report warns: “The use of reserves is not financially sustainable and leaves the council very exposed to financial risks.”
In March it was estimated that the budget shortfall in 2024-25 would be £25 million but that was quickly revised to £30 million. Now it is said that £50 million in savings are needed to keep council finances in check.
A seven-point plan to make immediate savings will be put to the Cabinet on Tuesday August 15 as follows:
- Spending on “non-essential items” banned;
- A recruitment freeze, a review of posts previously deemed essential and reduction in agency staff;
- Bring forward savings planned for the future;
- Speed up the sale of council land and buildings;
- Increase all discretionary fees and charges by at least the rate of inflation;
- Explore all opportunities to seek outside funding;
- Review the council’s Capital Programme to decide which schemes can be re-phased, deferred or stopped to reduce the cost of borrowing.
The council says the overspend is due to inflationary pressures and extra demand for services like child protection, residential placements for children in care and social care for older people and those with learning disabilities.
Inflation has also driven up costs for such as food for school catering and also IT equipment and software.
All the financial turmoil comes amid a leadership crisis for the council after the sudden resignation of council leader Shabir Pandor and the retirement of chief executive Jacqui Gedman.
A new leader was due to be elected at a meeting on September 13 and there is an extraordinary meeting of the council planned for Friday August 18. Steve Mawson is due to replace Ms Gedman in the top job in October.
Clr Paul Davies, Cabinet member for corporate services, said: “Even though inflation has slowed marginally, prices are still increasing at a rate we haven’t seen for decades.
“Alongside additional demand for some of our most vital services and our need to protect our most vulnerable residents given the cost-of-living impact, we need to take action now to balance the budget.
“We are facing the fact that we are living in a new economic reality. High prices and punitive interest rates are now becoming a feature of our economy rather than a temporary blip.
“When you combine that with increasing demand on services and our long-standing central government underfunding, it means we have to take decisive action to balance the budget. Sustainable funding is the bedrock of services for residents.
“As soon as the financial crisis hit, we took action to reduce costs. Reducing recruitment, refocusing investment and cutting costs.
“Our budget for this year also included around £20m in savings from our bottom line. We’re achieving those savings but the external pressures on our budget are severe.
“In this economic climate and funding situation, we know next year’s budget will be just as, if not more, challenging.”