Leicester City Council drains reserves to balance books

Plus: Council tax set to rise, adventure playgrounds at risk and Leicestershire Police funding shortfall.

Photo of Leicester Town Hall at dusk in the winter. Credit: trabantos

In focus

Leicester City Council drains reserves to balance books

by Emma Guy and Rhys Everquill

Following a fiery budget meeting at the town hall on Thursday, 21 February, the spotlight fell on Leicester City Council's increasingly precarious financial situation. Most news outlets reported a stark rise in residents' council tax bills, set to hit the 4.99% cap come April.

But in a desperate bid to stave off bankruptcy and tackle a daunting £61 million shortfall, the council is tapping into its reserves in addition to raising council tax, drawing a staggering £53.9 million, supported by an additional £15 million from an emergency fund. This move leaves the authority with a meagre £7.9 million in reserves, a mere fraction of its former financial cushion.

Despite these drastic measures, forecasts paint a bleak picture, with a projected shortfall of £78 million looming in 2025-26, escalating further to £83 million by 2028.

Addressing the budget, Labour City Mayor Sir Peter Soulsby acknowledged the challenging year ahead, stating: 

"We built reserves to avoid crisis cuts, but this will be a very, very difficult year. Difficult decisions will have to be taken and they'll need proper scrutiny here and from the public".

Opposition voices chimed in, with Liberal Democrat Cllr Nigel Porter criticising the mayor for reckless spending, citing a £140.7 million increase in council expenditure since Sir Peter assumed office. The budget meeting turned into a farce, with claims of mismanagement levelled against the mayor for purportedly squandering funds on property ventures and pet projects.

Green Cllr Patrick Kitterick took a jab at the mayor's vision for the Cank St redevelopment, questioning the inspiration behind it, while Conservative Cllr Deepak Bajaj accused the mayor of deflecting blame onto the government to mask the financial fallout of his decisions. Bajaj said:

"This Labour administration is not capable of protecting our much-needed front-line services, which matter the most to the people in our city".

The council plans to trim £39 million by scaling back spending on 'back-office functions' through more 'strategic procurement practices'. However, despite this modest lifeline, the council hurtles perilously close to submitting a section 114 notice, which is effectively bankruptcy for local councils.

The budget passed 29 votes to 17, with Conservatives and Greens abstaining, Liberal Democrats voting against, while most of Labour threw their support behind the budget, ultimately carrying it through.

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Weather Forecast

by Phil Morrish

🌥️ Monday, 26 February: A cold start. In the morning, we will see some variable clouds and some sunshine. Temps will rise throughout the day, but a fresh NE breeze will make it feel cold, with the wind gusting to 30mph. A dry, clear night. Min: 1C | Max: 8C

🌥️ Tuesday, 27 February: A cold start with frost. There will be plenty of clouds around, with just a little brightness. It will stay mostly dry. It's likely to feel cold all day as a fresh NE breeze comes in at 24mph. A dry night. Min: 1C | Max: 7C

🌥️ Wednesday, 28 February: A cool start. There will be some variable clouds but some sunshine too. It will stay dry. It will be milder than Tuesday, with lighter SW wind at 20mph. A dry night. Min: 2C | Max: 9C

🌧️ Thursday, 29 February: A mild and cloudy start. It will stay predominantly cloudy with drizzle at times. A moderate W wind at 20mph. A cloudy night. Min: 7C | Max: 10C

🌦️ Friday, 1 March: A colder day with some sunshine but a few showers too. Possibly wintery throughout the day. The evening is cold, with possible frost overnight. Min: 0C | Max: 7C

🌦️ Weekend, 2-3 March: A cold Saturday with a few showers, possibly wintery at times. A moderate SE breeze with max gusts of 20mph at times. On Sunday, it will be a frosty start with plenty of sunshine and a small chance of a shower. Lighter W winds at 15mph. Min: 0C | Max: 10C

In the News

by Rhys Everquill

  • Council tax bill set to rise: As we've already reported above, Leicester City Council is on the brink of a financial cliff-edge. Councillors have voted to raise the bills to the 4.99% cap from April to head off what is effectively bankruptcy. But what does that look like? Band D properties will see approximately £109 more on their annual bill – BBC Leicester
  • Adventure playgrounds on the chopping block: During the budget meeting on Thursday, councillors voted down four more years of funding for the adventure playground network in Leicester. While funding is protected for the next year, its future is now in doubt – Leicester Mercury
  • Boy who fell in River Soar named: Xielo Maruziva, just two years old, fell into the River Soar at the Aylestone Meadows on 18 February. The family have thanked members of the community for their ongoing support. Searches are still underway – Leicester Times
  • PCC writes to Home Secretary asking for fairer funding: Rupert Matthews, Police and Crime Commissioner for Leicester, Leicestershire and Rutland, has written to the Home Secretary James Cleverly MP, requesting a meeting at the earliest possible opportunity to discuss the funding for Leicestershire Police. In a tale old as time, Leicestershire Police have a £5.4m funding shortfall in the coming financial year – Leicester Media
  • 'London-style' camera-enforced junctions inbound: New powers granted by the Department of Transport will allow the council to enforce traffic offences near St Margaret's Bus Station. Both junctions are regularly blocked by motorists, largely disrupting bus services and blocking emergency vehicles – Leicester City Council
  • Help our reporting on crime in Leicester: We want to speak to people in Leicester who have been victims of crime in the city as we look ahead to the Police and Crime Commissioner elections. No matter the crime's seriousness, every experience is valid and worth telling us about – Great Central Gazette
Callout: Help our reporting on crime in Leicester
We’d like to hear from you if you or someone you know has been a victim of crime.

Reader Photo of the Week

Each week, we want to feature a photo from a reader on our social media platforms (Facebook, Instagram and X, formerly known as Twitter). The image could be a beautiful shot of Leicestershire's countryside, a snap you took in the city or something more newsworthy. Send your name and photos to news@greatcentralgazette.org.
Photo of Bradgate with deer in the foreground and trees in the background. Blue sky. Credit: David Landwehr

One of our volunteers, David Landwehr, took this week's photo at Bradgate Park.

What's On

by Leah Everquill

🚨 – Last chance
💷 – Entry fee
🆓 – Free of charge

If you fancy learning some salsa moves, pop down to De Montfort University for this fabulous free class. Booking online essential. From 12pm-1pm.

Looking for a career change? Head over to The City Rooms for the Leicester Careers Fair, where you can meet and speak directly to employers from various sectors. Booking online essential. From 10am-2pm.

Calling all theatrical fans! The Y Theatre is hosting a series of terrific free, family-friendly workshops all about the behind-the-scenes of theatre. From lighting, sound, and stage design to programming and marketing – prepare to get clued up on all things stagey. Booking online essential. Sessions start at 6pm and 7:30pm.

Serendipity Institute for Black Arts and Heritage is hosting an insightful talk about Black women and girls in education, led by sociologist Dr April-Louise Pennant. From 6pm-8pm. Tickets from £5.

Do you like trains? Head to the Abbey Pumping Station for a fun, vintage railway-themed day out. Choo choo! Booking online essential. Tickets from £2, under 5s go for free. From 12pm-4:30pm.

  • 🆓 Nemesis – Now until 14 April 2024

Phoenix Arts Centre is showcasing some fascinating portraits of James Bond's villains by renowned photographer Andy Gotts. Perhaps you can pick up a drink whilst you're there? Shaken, not stirred – of course.

On the Market

by Rhys Everquill

GIF of a cottage in Old Narborough. Photo credit: Purplebricks

This cottage in Old Narborough has an odd layout, but its character, charm and village location surely make up for it. It comprises a porch, hallway, sitting room, kitchen, utility room, dining room, and ground-floor shower room.

Price: £625,000

Check out this 4 bedroom detached house for sale on Rightmove
4 bedroom detached house for sale in Church Lane, Leicester, LE19 for £625,000. Marketed by Purplebricks, covering Leicestershire

Active Callouts

Callouts are one of the ways we improve our reporting – by reaching out directly to YOU, the reader. By sharing your experiences with us, you help us craft stories that hold power to account, share solutions and promote good in our community. 
Callout: Help our reporting on crime in Leicester
We’d like to hear from you if you or someone you know has been a victim of crime.

Food and Drink

by David Landwehr

Photo of loaded fries from Reece's Kitchen. Credit: David Landwehr

If you have read enough of my reviews, you will know I'm partial to a bowl of loaded fries. This week's fries are the chipotle chicken from Reece's Kitchen in Ratby. It's very reasonably priced for the amount you get. I shared this with another person, and we were both very comfortably full. It was a delicious combo with some crispy, possibly triple-cooked chips and fresh chicken. The chipotle sauce is something I need more of in my life.

Price: £7.75

Sports highlights

by David Landwehr

  • Men's Football: Leicester was defeated by Leeds United 3-1 at Elland Road. With several missed goal opportunities and a questionable disallowed goal, Friday's match will undoubtedly go down as one of the most brutal matches of the Championship thus far. Leicester faces Bournemouth in an FA Cup match on 27 February. Read more
  • Men's Cricket: The Leicestershire CCC 2024 season is filled with promise following the international success of multiple signings. Will Pucovski is hitting his seventh first-class century. Peter Handscomb brought up the 22nd red-ball century of his career. That's just the beginning. Read more
  • Motorsport: Steve Cassisi, a Lecturer from NWSLC, was praised when his team dragster was awarded Best Appearing Car for its 1960s styling at SantaPod raceway. Read more


by Megan Lupton

Photo of an advertising card from 1909. Credit: De Montfort University

DMU's The Venue was once home to the Boulevard Roller Skating Rink. Here's an advertising card from 1909 showcasing the era's fashion.


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