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Southport Reporter® covering the news on Merseyside.

Date:- 12 February 2007

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 Board recommended to postpone Pops

LIVERPOOL City Council is being recommended not to proceed with this year’s Summer Pops.  That is the conclusion of the Summer Pops Procurement Panel, set up by the city council to carry out a competitive tender for the event.  It follows a detailed study of three bids from CMP, CI Events and Largeportion Ltd by a team of councillors. The scrutiny revealed that a subsidy of up to £750,000 could still have been needed from the city council, depending upon which company was selected.

Council leader Warren Bradley said:- “Since the city council began running the Summer Pops in 2001, we have proved that Liverpool can attract the best acts in the world.  We opened it up to competitive tender this year in a bid to minimise the cost to Liverpool residents. However, the bidders have told us they could need up to three quarters of a million pounds to run the event.  At the same time, we are facing an extremely difficult budget settlement, and I feel strongly we cannot commit to it when we are also having to find money to protect vital frontline services for the people of Liverpool.

We have had to weigh up if it is of more benefit to put on the Summer Pops at a cost of tens of thousands of pounds per day, or invest that money into services.  On balance, I think Liverpool residents would prefer us to spend money providing leisure facilities, good education for children and a decent level of social care for vulnerable people rather than staging a 2 week pop festival.

Liverpool is known world-wide and at the start of 2008 we will be in a much stronger position because the new 10,600 seat arena and convention centre opens on the waterfront.  The increased capacity and the fact it is a permanent structure will wipe out most of the costs associated with putting on the Summer Pops.  The new arena will catapult us into the Premier League of music venues and allow us to attract pop superstars all year round. Its pulling power during Capital of Culture year will be absolutely massive and we will be exploiting its potential to the maximum.  We have hundreds of events lined up to celebrate the city’s 800th birthday so, despite the fact there will be no Summer Pops this year, there will be no shortage of things to see and do in Liverpool.”


Free public talks

How to find inner peace

Wednesday 21 February 7.30pm

Friends Meetings House (Behind Police Station)

Court Road, Southport

Tel: 0151 726 8900

Merseytravel maintains levy increase and present tunnel tolls

MERSEYTRAVEL is maintaining its levy increase for the 5 district authorities of Merseyside to an average 4.0%. Tunnel tolls will also be maintained at current levels.  The moves were both approved unanimously at today’s meeting of the Merseyside Passenger Transport Authority (MPTA).

Councillor Mark Dowd, Chair of Merseytravel, said:- “We have maintained tunnel toll charges at their current levels to support the continued economic prosperity of the region.  Like every other PTA we have had financial pressures. However, through careful budgeting we have been able to maintain the levy increase to an average of four per cent and ensure we do everything we can to limit any pressure on Council tax rises, with the agreement of local councils.”

Liberal Democrat PTA Members put an amendment to the budget. This sought to amend the PTA’s published plans and resolutions over child cash fares on buses and enter back into negotiations with operators.

Cllr Dowd said:- “Quite frankly, this is a move that would place £2.3million into the coffers of the private bus companies in the next financial year.  The proposals put forward would have left local authorities high and dry. Bowing to the demands of bus companies in this way could have meant an extra burden on each of the authorities - Liverpool could have had to pay an additional £750,000, Sefton and Wirral an additional £500,000 each, St Helens £290,000 and the additional cost to Knowsley could have been £250,000. 

The PTA Members unanimously supported the budget agreed today.  We must make it absolutely clear that we are not withdrawing children’s half fares. They will still be available, more cheaply, through our own pre-paid schemes.  I challenge the bus companies to emulate our commitment to hold the cash fares of Merseytravel’s subsidised services, paid for by the public purse, at the same rate until 2010.  What we are saying to the bus companies is enough is enough. We will not be held hostage to fortune. Surely an annual payment of £50million from council taxpayers to bus companies is more than sufficient for, in many cases, poor services.

It is important that people know the decision we have taken is not about targeting children or people in the poorest parts of Merseyside. It is about taking a stand and funding children’s bus travel through ways such as pre-paid tickets, over which we have greater control and public accountability.  The truth of the matter is bus companies may continue to offer half fares for children from April 1st. In my view, this is a commercial decision for the operators to make along with their shareholders.”

A motion put forward by Councillor Dowd called for the Secretary of State to back plans for a similar child concession scheme as operated on the railways for buses. It was carried unanimously.

The motion read:- “The Merseyside Passenger Transport Authority believes that the present rail scheme which entitles children to travel half fare by train should be extended in order that children using the bus would also be entitled to parity with their peers. Therefore, we call upon the Secretary of State for Transport to immediately begin the process to comply with this motion by the PTA.”

Cllr Dowd added:- “Surely if children are allowed by law to travel by rail for half fare without local tax payers directly footing the bill, so should those travelling on buses.”

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