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Weekly Edition - Publication date:- 2016-12-02

-en Southport & Mersey Reporter

Local News Report  - Mobile Page


Thousands visit budget simulator in 1st week

ALMOST 3,500 people have visited Liverpool City Council's Budget Simulator in the 1st week. The online tool enables people to suggest where they think £90 million of savings should be made over the next 3 years, and also to give views on ways of raising additional income.

So far, around 500 people have completed the simulator and 'balanced the books' with 50% saying they would be willing to see an increase of up to 10% in Council Tax, if it were 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.

General themes from the consultation responses so far include:-

Shielding children's and adults services more than other services.

► Being more commercial to generate income.

► Charging more for some services.

► Reducing Councillors and senior staff.

Mayor Joe Anderson said:- "We want as many people as possible to engage with the budget simulator to tell us their priorities to help inform the budget process. It is a genuine consultation and no decisions have been made yet.  No 1 is more aware than I am that we are asking whether people are already poor if they are willing to help fund services for the poorest, but the scale of the Government cuts over the last 6 years means that we have nowhere to go and are left with little option other than to cut into essential front line services. It is a sign of how caring the people of Liverpool are that there is a fairly even split in the number of people willing to see a 10% increase in Council Tax, ring fenced to protect some of the children's and adults social care services from the worst of the cuts. We will make a decision on whether to hold a referendum in the new year, but will only do so if we are confident it would be supported, because of the cost of holding the ballot. 1 of the 1st things I did when I took charge was to cut the number and pay of senior managers and axe bonuses in order to get rid of the excess fat in the organisation. We will be looking hard at what's left of the management structure to see what else we can do, while at the same time making sure we can still attract and retain the best people. I am acutely aware that staff of all grades are already going above and beyond every day to deliver services due to the fact we have 3,000 less staff than we did in 2010. Councillors have also done their bit as the basic allowance has not gone up for nine years and they receive around ?6,000 a year less than elected members in Manchester and Birmingham, while doing an excellent job directly helping those most affected by the cuts in their communities.  If people genuinely want us to protect services, we can only do that if the Government give us more money; which the Autumn Statement made clear they won't; or if residents contribute more. I would encourage people to go online to the simulator and have their say over the future of vital services in the city to give us the best possible picture of what people think before making decisions next year."

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 Adult Services and Children's Services which support the most vulnerable, and cutting all other departments by a further 50%.

The budget simulator is open until Friday, 16 December 2016.

The Council will set its budget in March 2017.


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Southport Reporter (R) Bourder




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