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Weekly Edition - Publication date:- 2016-11-24

-en Southport & Mersey Reporter

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Council starts consultation on saving further ?90 million


 LIVERPOOL City Council has begun consultation on finding another ?90 million of savings; in addition to ?330 million of Government funding reductions since 2010.  In total, it means the local authority will have lost nearly 70% of its Whitehall money between 2010 and 2020, more than any other City in the country. Liverpool is more dependent on funding from the Government than other places because almost 4 out of 5 properties are in Council Tax Bands A and B, greatly reducing the City's ability to raise its own money. Council Tax only contributes 11% to Liverpool's overall budget, leaving the City vulnerable to the Government's austerity programme as Whitehall provides 72% of the overall funding for services.  Over the last 3 years, Council Departments have been asked to make savings of between 25% and 50%.   Closing the budget gap from 2017 to 2020 could mean taking another 10% from adults and children's services which support the most vulnerable, and cutting all other departments by a further 50%.

An online budget simulator has been set up for residents to suggest where they think savings should be made and also to give views on ways of raising additional income.  Residents are also being asked if they would be willing to pay for an increase of up to 10% in Council Tax, which would be ring fenced to help protect children's and adults services for the most vulnerable. Government rules mean that an increase above 3.99% would only happen if residents were to vote in favour of it in a referendum.

Mayor Joe Anderson said:- "The scale of the Government cuts that we have seen over the last 6 years mean that we have nowhere to go and are left with little option other than to cut into essential front line services. Our ability to meet the challenge without reducing services is virtually non existent.  If we closed all of our 19 libraries, scrapped our 9 sports centres, cut all spend on culture, stopped maintaining the parks, halted all the highways repairs and street cleansing and switched off 50,000 lights that would only save ?68 million; and we need to find ?90 million to stand still.  If people genuinely want us to protect services, we can only do that if the Government give us more money; which they haven't so far, or if residents give us more money. That is why we are asking people if they would support a 10% increase in council tax which we would use solely to protect some of the children's and adults social care services from the worst of the cuts.  Our focus remains firmly on doing everything we can to attract more jobs and protect the most vulnerable.  While we have very difficult decisions to make on services, we also have a duty to go on delivering major schemes that will bring major economic benefits, such as investment in roads and big regeneration projects like the cruise liner terminal and Paddington Village which are bringing more much needed businesses and jobs to the City.  The Government's plan is that we will be largely dependent on income from Business Rates and Council Tax from 2020, it is vital that we do all we can to attract employers and help create jobs.  We will continue lobbying the Government hard on the impact their cuts are having; and I would urge residents to do the same. The budget simulator is a serious attempt to engage Council Tax payers in not only understanding why we the city is in the financial state we're in but have a say in what we can do, or should do. I would urge people to go online, take the time to have a look at the budget simulator, tell us their priorities and have their say."

Deputy Mayor, Cllr Ann O'Byrne, added:- "We've been innovative in finding ways of keeping services going since 2010, such as transferring some Libraries and Youth Centres to partners and bringing in external funding for some services; but that makes making further savings even harder.  We will need to do more of this entrepreneurial thinking, including looking at ways of bringing in extra income and extending our Invest to Earn programme, in order to bring in additional cash to help offset the cuts in Government funding.  It's also important that we continue to do all we can to drive the city's economy. Contrary to popular belief, we don't make a penny out of the money spent by people attending our hugely popular events and festivals, but they are really valuable because they are crucial to supporting thousands of jobs in hotels, restaurants, bars and shops as well as raising the City's profile internationally.  There's little doubt that even by doing things differently we are still going to have to cut into the bone of vital Council Services. It is going to be hard and it is going to be painful."

The budget simulator will be open until Friday, 16 December 2016. The Council will set its budget in March 2017.


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