Liverpool City Council has revealed budget cuts of £90 million over the next three years.
It takes to £420 million the amount of central Government spending cuts since 2010, equivalent to a 68 percent reduction in funding.
The city council has taken steps to protect adult and children’s social care as much as possible, and they account for less than eight percent of the overall savings proposed.
In addition, the council is setting aside £2 million in 2017/18 to help the most vulnerable through shielding people from the full impact of reductions in council tax support, crisis payments for food, fuel, clothing and furniture and Discretionary Housing Payments to help people affected by rent rises and other welfare reform issues.
The reductions would be more severe if it wasn’t for the Mayor’s Invest to Earn programme, which is generating £3 million a year to support essential services. Examples include the rental profit from buying the Cunard Building and Finch Farm training ground.
In addition, new homes built or brought back into use as part of the Mayor’s commitment to widen the choice of housing are generating an additional £8 million per year in council tax revenue.
Among the proposals to meet the budget gap are:
• Review of One Stop Shops to save £2.7 million
• Cutting the contact centre opening times to save £2.9 million
• Reducing the cost of inward investment agency Liverpool Vision by £1.2 million
• Setting up a task force to review the libraries service in 2018/19 to save £1.6 million
In Children’s Services, savings of £4.1 million will be made by reducing the cost of care placements and packages and increasing the number of in-house foster carers to reduce the number employed by Independent Fostering Agencies. Money has also been set aside to maintain Children’s Centres for the next 12 months with the aim of devising a viable option for the future of the service.
The city council is also planning to:
• Open new car parks and extend opening hours to raise an additional £920k by 2020
• Introduce a premium service from Bulky Bobs, bringing in £280k
• Save £4 million by reducing the number of buildings and premises management costs
• Invest £1.5 million in the city’s Lifestyles fitness centres to attract more users and generate more income
Mayor of Liverpool Joe Anderson said: “I have always been clear that my priorities are to protect the most vulnerable in the city and help grow the economy and this budget is aimed at meeting those aims.
“Despite all of the cuts we have faced so far, we’ve continued to spend £12 million a year on homeless services and £2.5m on crisis payments for the most vulnerable to help those in crisis pay their rent and council tax.
“There is no doubt that some frontline council services will be significantly reduced and we will have less staff by 2020.
“There will be fewer One Stop Shops and the contact centre won’t be open around the clock. It will take people longer to get a response to requests for some services.
“These are not things that we want to do, but we have no choice, because the Government isn’t listening and as the majority of people who responded to the budget consultation said they wouldn’t support a one-off 10 percent rise in council tax.
“We also have a duty to go on delivering major capital schemes that will bring major economic benefits, such as investment in roads and big regeneration projects like the cruise liner terminal bringing visitors and Paddington Village which are bringing more much-needed businesses and jobs to the city.
“The Government’s intention is that we will have to be largely dependent on income from business rates and council tax from 2020, so it is vital that we do all we can to attract employers and help create jobs and help people on to the housing ladder.”
The council is setting aside £13 million in reserves in 2017/18 which will be drawn down in 2018/19 and 2019/20 to reduce the impact of cuts in future years. Emergency reserves will be four percent of the council’s net budget – below the five percent previously recommended by the Audit Commission.
Deputy Mayor, Cllr Ann O’Byrne, added: “Where possible we will do our very best to transfer services to other organisations, as we have done some libraries and youth centres.
“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.”
The Budget report, which proposes a 4.99 percent increase in Council Tax in 2017/18 – the maximum the Government will allow without approval in a referendum – will be considered by the Cabinet on Friday 24 February before being put to a Budget Council Meeting on Wednesday 8 March.