Liverpool City Council is to start a consultation later this week on its budget savings for the next financial year.
The city council already has £436 million less to spend each year in real terms than it did in 2010 – equivalent to a 63 per cent cut – due to reductions in funding from central government.
Through a combination of considerable effort, Government lobbying and invest to earn schemes the council has been able to significantly reduce the amount it needs to find from frontline services by around half, down from £57.6 million to around £30 million.
This is due to:
• Improved business rates and council tax income for 2020/21 as a result of the city’s economic growth and the number of new homes built – both key planks of Mayor Joe Anderson’s Invest to Earn strategy
• Reduced contributions of £15 million to the Merseyside Pension Fund for 2020/21 because the council has negotiated to pay in less as its investments have performed better than expected
• Additional Government funding of £10 million for adult social care, which was only confirmed just before Christmas following the general election
The proposals would see the books balanced through a mix of cutting the costs of services, reducing demand and increasing income.
It assumes a council tax rise of 3.99 per cent, which will raise an extra £7.2 million compared to 2019/20.
This is made up of 1.99 per cent for general spending and two per cent which is ring fenced for adult social care.
The budget options will be the subject of public consultation for 28 days and further details will be provided when this begins.
No decisions have been made as yet, and final decisions will not be taken until all consultation responses have been fully considered.
In addition, some of the options will be subject to a further detailed consultation with the public and appropriate stakeholders before a decision is made on whether to implement them.
Key budget proposals include:
• Reducing the number of children in the most costly residential care placements by placing them in the council’s newly created children’s homes or in foster placements SAVING: £2 million
• Creating a dedicated ‘edge of care’ team to reduce the number of teenagers coming into services and improve outcomes SAVING: £1 million
• Supported Living transformation – ensure every individual is supported to live independently in appropriate accommodation with a personal budget SAVING: £2.5 million
• Review of NHS services commissioned through Public Health grant
SAVING: £1.374 million
• Redesign of customer services strategy and model SAVING: £2 million
• Review and remodel of ICT service SAVING: £900k
• A rise in council car parking charges INCOME: £500k
• Reassess adult social care packages, with all those affected to have a benefits check and means test financial assessment INCOME: £1 million
The budget also includes £11 million for an increase in fees for home care providers and residential/nursing homes to make sure they pay staff the national living wage.
Mayor of Liverpool, Joe Anderson, said: “This is my tenth budget leading the council and each year it gets harder to find the necessary savings to balance the books without impacting on frontline services, as many of the back office savings were made a long time ago.
“Since becoming Mayor, I have been clear about the need for a twin-track approach to build a bigger, stronger economy and different types of housing to generate more income, and to protect our poorest residents. It is as a result of this ‘Invest to Earn’ approach that we are generating additional council tax and business rates income, reducing significantly the amount we are having to save.
“Despite this, I am acutely aware that our budget proposals mean asking people to contribute more, whether in council tax or by paying extra for specific services. At a time when so many of our residents are struggling with the impact of austerity and welfare reforms, I know this is a bitter pill for them to swallow.
“For now, we have also been able to protect many of the services that people care deeply about, such as children’s centres, libraries and our Lifestyles fitness centres.
“We will also continue to significantly invest in services to help the most vulnerable, such as preventing homelessness and our welfare support initiatives such as the Citizen Support Service, council tax support scheme and Discretionary Housing Payments to help with rent.
“I am proud to say that no city in the country does more than Liverpool to protect those living in hardship, and I am committed to continuing to do so, despite the cuts we face.
“I know this will also be an uncertain time for many people affected by the numerous reviews that we will be carrying out of different services. This is always difficult, and all I can do is promise that we will go through the process with dignity and respect to the people affected, whether they are those who receive services, or our own staff.”
A consultation will start on Friday 10 January with residents and stakeholders about the budget proposals ahead of it being considered at the council’s budget meeting on Wednesday 4 March.
Members of the public can write, with any comments on the budget options, to:
Director of Finance and Resources
Liverpool City Council
• Only 14 per cent 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 per cent due to the high proportion of households in the city that qualify for discounts and exemptions (eg: single people or students), or because they qualify for council tax support
• Much more information about the budget can be found at www.liverpoolexpress.co.uk/budget2020, where there is also a special Mersey Waves podcast explaining the reasons for the city’s financial predicament