A NEW funding arrangement for litter collection and street cleaning services around Wetherby is leaving the area short-changed, according to two ward councillors.
Environmental services across Leeds are being decentralised with responsibility delegated to 10 area committees but Conservative ward Couns Alan Lamb (Wetherby) and Matthew Robinson (Harewood) have blasted the way the Labour-led administration has divided resources, with the north-eastern area of Leeds receiving £500,000 less than the north-western part of the city.
Coun Lamb said: “There is a large disparity in funding between the area committees despite the need to tackle the same environmental problems in all wards of the city. The administration has failed to address the differences in funding or even provide a rational explanation behind this decision.
“We need fair, even and open funding in the city with all areas receiving equal provision for such an important service for local residents.
“It is also vital that the savings from any efficiencies made by the local area committees remain within that local area rather than any savings being taken back to the centre and disappearing to other areas of the city.”
The issue was debated at a full meeting of Leeds City Council where it was agreed to organise the 10 area committees into three ‘wedges’ across the metropolitan area, each ‘wedge’ having a locality team and manager responsible for services including the emptying of litter bins, street-sweeping, leaf-clearing, dog warden services and graffiti enforcement.
The amounts allocated to each locality team for the 2011/12 budget are: East/North East (under which the Wetherby, Harewood and Alwoodley wards fall), £2.049m; South/South East, £2.057m; and West/North West, £2.572m.
Harewood representative Coun Robinson welcomed the decentralised approach but also has concerns the money was not being divided up fairly and that councillors sitting on the area committees could get the blame for shortfalls stemming from inadequate financial resources.
“The area committees have been given the responsibility and accountability for these services without being granted sufficient funding,” he said.
“In my view this could be seen as an attempt to pass the buck to local councillors when things go wrong without providing them the means to ensure they don’t.”
Service level agreements setting out the details on how each locality team’s money will be divided among its respective area committees have been signed-off by nine of the ten area committees.
But the North East (Outer) Area Committee on which Couns Lamb and Robinson sit has yet to sign-off its agreement while the debate on how funds should be distributed continues.
Coun Peter Gruen (Lab), Deputy Leader of Leeds City Council and executive member for neighbourhoods, housing and regeneration, said: “Most councillors across Leeds have embraced this new responsibility with open arms so it is extremely disappointing that members of the North East (Outer) Area Committee are still refusing to take responsibility for their own area.
“Since January we have arranged three workshops to enable members of the North East (Outer) Area Committee to consider the proposal in detail. Unfortunately, Coun Lamb has not attended any of these events. Had he done so, he would know that there has been no change to current funding allocations and that the level of resource each area receives mirrors their existing allocations.
“If Couns Lamb and Robinson don’t feel this service is currently working effectively for their residents, then I suggest they sign up to these proposals and seize the opportunity to improve things for their area.”