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News Report Page 5 of 18
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Residents urged to have a go at balancing Council books

Calculator:- Residents can have their say on where spending priorities should lie.

PEOPLE in Liverpool are being asked to help decide the City Council's spending priorities for 2020, as the Local Authority grapples with a ₤57.6 million funding gap. A Budget Calculator has been launched on the Council's website, which gives Council Taxpayers the chance to choose how much they would spend in each department by using a series of sliders. It also gives examples of the risks and consequences of cutting each budget area. Liverpool has ₤436 million less to spend each year in real terms than it did in 2010; equivalent to a 63% cut; due to reductions in funding from Locall Government. Only 14% of the Council's budget is raised through Council Tax. This is because most properties in the City are in lower Council Tax bands, which pay a lower amount. It is compounded because the total amount that can be raised is reduced by 40% due to the high proportion of households in the City that qualify for discounts and exemptions, like:- single people or students, or because they qualify for Council Tax support. It is estimated significant further cuts will need to be made in 2020, at a time when the Council's reserves (or savings) have been almost exhausted. At present levels they would only be enough to pay for the cost of running the Council for around 2 weeks. The Council is facing significant pressures in the current financial year due to an overspend of more than ₤15 million, primarily due to more young people being in care; with a growing number requiring complex and costly support packages. A cross party budget working group has been set up which has representation from each of the political parties on the Council, with the elected members looking at options that have been put forward by officers. The calculator forms part of the Council's consultation with local people before the budget is set in March 2020.

Mayor of Liverpool, Joe Anderson, said:- "This is an unprecedented situation for the Council; the worst financial crisis we have faced since the end of World War 2. We have done extremely well up till now in keeping vital services going despite losing thousands of staff and having to reduce some budgets significantly. This is in part due to our Invest to Earn strategy of helping create new businesses and build new houses to bring in additional income. However, we are now at a stage where there is little we can do in terms of cutting back office support and that means that any cuts we do make will have a detrimental impact on the frontline. That is why we want people to have their say on those services we should prioritise. It is their Council Tax that we are spending. It is right and proper that they should be part of the process. We know from when we have run the budget calculator in previous years that it has proved to be a real eye opener for those who took part, with many reporting that they found it too difficult because of the consequences of the decisions they had to make."

Director of Finance and Resources Mel Creighton said:- "This is the most challenging budget I have ever faced in more than 20 years in Local Government. It's not going to be an easy task and the relatively easy ways of balancing the books are not available to us anymore. Over the last 10 years the Council has been able to dip in to its reserves, but these now stand at ₤16 million and have been reduced by more than a over the last 3 years.  Setting an unbalanced budget is not an option, and the budget calculator is an important part of our consultation process and will form part of the budget setting in the new year."

Hugh Baird University Centre Class of 2019 Graduates celebrate their success

GRADUATES from the Hugh Baird University Centre have celebrated their achievements alongside friends, family and staff at the University Centre's 2019 Graduation Ceremony. The University Centre, which opened in 2014, has provided local students with an affordable, aspirational and local progression option into Higher Education.

The courses delivered at the Hugh Baird University Centre are all approved and validated by the University of Central Lancashire (UCLan). In total, the Centre now offers 19 Foundation Degrees and 13 Full Honours Degrees, many of which are can be studied part time or full time. Alongside this, the University Centre offers teacher training qualifications, a range of professional development courses and Foundation Entry level courses for students that don't meet the traditional entry requirements.

Colette Mawdsley, Dean of Higher Education at the Hugh Baird University Centre, said:- "Since the Hugh Baird University Centre opened we have seen a huge growth in student numbers and a major development of our curriculum offer. Close to 2,500 people have been brave enough to say, I can do this! In making this bold decision, they have bettered their career and life prospects and the future outlook for themselves and their families. Many of our graduates have set a shining example to their children and other family members of just what can be achieved through applying oneself and continuing to move forward even when times get tough. This makes me exceptionally proud to be The Dean of the Hugh Baird University Centre because I know we make a difference. The Graduation Ceremony was an opportunity to celebrate our graduates and their guests to feel extremely proud of their hard work and determination. Not only that, the Ceremony marks the next step in their journey into professional careers that could see them working here in the Liverpool City Region or anywhere across the world."

Those in attendance at the ceremony heard a number of inspirational stories from graduates picking up special achievement awards, and in addition were addressed by a past student who shared her journey since graduating in 2018.

After being out of education for nearly 20 years, Catherine Coburn from Bootle last year collected a First Class Honours degree in Business and Management, something she never thought she would be capable of doing. At the Graduation Ceremony, Catherine spoke of her experiences since graduating and gave advice to graduates. Catherine said:- "It was a great honour to return to Hugh Baird University Centre as a guest speaker at the Graduation Ceremony. Just 1 year ago I was in the very position the Graduates are now, and it was great to share with them my journey since graduating. Some Graduates will know the path they want to go down and may quickly achieve this, whilst others may take a little longer or may not know what direction they want to go in, and that is absolutely fine. But whatever they do, they shouldn't give in and let their hard work and achievement go to waste. The girt, determination and drive that they had to complete their degrees is inside every 1 of them and they will need that to help them progress in the future. I know this only too well and my hard work has led me to gain employment in a career I have always wanted."

Dharma Kovuuri, Dean of the University of Central Lancashire (UCLan) Burnley Campus, said:- "It was an honour to represent UCLan at the Hugh Baird University Centre Graduation Ceremony as we celebrated the success of the latest Graduates of our longstanding partnership. UCLan is very proud to provide to offer university study to students in their local community which underpins our approach to widening participation. It was heartening to hear the personal stories of students who overcame challenges and combined study with family and care commitments. The students received 1st rate support from staff at the University Centre who encouraged them to succeed. For many of them, their study will be a life-changing experience. It will provide career opportunities that they previously thought were not possible. It was clear from the reaction from the families, friends and the academic staff of the Hugh Baird University Centre how proud everyone was of the graduates. I wish them every success for the future."

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