BRADFORD Council has set its annual budget – which will see council tax rise by 4.99 per cent.

Council leader Cllr Susan Hinchcliffe described it as the district’s “most challenging budget ever”.

At the budget meeting, opposition politicians claimed years of poor management by council leaders had led to the current situation, where the taxpayer had to fund eye-watering costs of residential care and agency staff.

But the council’s leadership highlighted years of Government cuts.

In April, a new children’s trust will take over the district’s children’s services, which were first rated inadequate in 2018. Earlier this year, a follow-up inspection found that the service had got worse in many areas.

However Bradford Council will still have to fund the service, and the budget includes an extra £57m to tackle the spiralling costs.

These include the rising number of placements for children in care, which can cost £270,000 a year per child, and the high level of agency staff employed.

The budget also set aside £58.4m to cover inflation, pay rises and rising energy costs and an additional £5m for adult social care.

The council will have to dip into its reserves to the tune of £44.3m.

Cllr Hinchcliffe said: “We’ve had to mine reserves further than we’ve ever had to before.

“We are living in the most challenging of times; we’ve had years of austerity, the pandemic, war in Ukraine and the cost-of-living crisis. Bradford is not a place that can tolerate big economic shocks.”

Referring to children’s services, she said: “It is our number one investment priority. Since the Ofsted judgement in 2018 it has been more difficult to retain staff, so we rely on significantly more expensive agency staff."

Councillor Mike Pollard presented the Conservative budget, saying: “Using a Yorkshire phrase, this year’s budget can be seen as ‘a bit of a to do'.

“Next year this council may be looking at being unable to balance its budget.”

He said children’s services decisions made by the council several years ago were now having a “catastrophically negative” effect on current budgets, adding: “These were disastrous errors by the current political leadership.”

The party’s budget included proposals to scrap equality and diversity posts in the council, and removing evening and Sunday parking charges at a number of district car parks.

Each party’s amended budget went to the vote, with the council’s Labour majority meaning the original budget was approved.