Liverpool City Council has set its budget for 2013-14.
The council has approved savings of £32 million, on top of £141 million already delivered over the last two years.
Council tax bills will rise by 1.8 percent, generating around £2 million for the council’s base budget over the coming years. It will help fund a £400,000 kitty to reduce the impact of the hardship caused by austerity measures, administered by the Mayor’s Action Group on Fairness and Tackling Poverty.
It means people living in a Band A property – 51.4 percent of households – will pay an additional £18.15 per year.
The Mayor has also announced a £2 million boost for young people’s facilities in the city. The Schools Parliament will be given a pot of £1.5 million to spend on infrastructure projects, while £200,000 will be used for putting on activities. And councillors will also be able to bid for money from a £300,000 fund to support activities for young people.
The options approved at the budget council meeting include:
A review of libraries and the introduction of a ‘hub and spoke’ model from 2014/15. This follows the opening of the brand new Central Library which the council has committed to running at a cost of almost £2 million per year (a PFI deal was signed in 2009). Consultation will be held over having a smaller network of buildings and some services may be delivered by other organisations from 2014/15. The service will also place more of an emphasis on digital access, with members available to download books online. This option will save £1 million per year (from 2014/15)
Reviewing the operations at Kirkby and Allerton municipal golf courses which are both running at a loss, saving up to £300,000
Review of the Integrated Youth and Play Service with the possibility of transferring services to the voluntary and community sector, saving £1.2 million over three years
Withdrawal of part-funding for sheltered housing wardens with Registered Social Landlords asked to fund the shortfall, to save £1 million
Introduction of charges for community alarms at sheltered housing, saving £449,000 per year
Reviewing homeless hostels at Geneva Road and Aigburth Drive in order to save £150,000 per year
Selling four nurseries which are heavily subsidised by the council to save £800,000 per year
Ceasing the council’s role in delivering the Truancy Watch service from 2014/15 to save £132,000
Mayor Joe Anderson said: “This has been a very tough process in which we have had to make some extremely difficult and hard choices in order to balance the books for the next financial year, but also to prepare for the following year.
“In previous years we have been able to make many of the savings by reducing back office functions, and halving the senior management team. We are now at the stage where those options have gone, and we are having to prioritise one front line service over another.
“I will never take lightly any decision to cut any service. But we have a responsibility to protect our most vulnerable residents and I am committed to doing everything in my power to ensure the survival of services which people rely on so heavily.”
“It may mean people travelling further to get to one of our libraries. Or paying more to use a golf course. But I hope fair minded people will understand this is preferable to leaving the most vulnerable people without support.”
“I completely understand that some people will be extremely unhappy – I am too. But the simple fact is that we get 80 percent of our funding from the government, and the cut in our grant means we are the hardest hit city in the country.
“I have also been determined to find a way to make sure we support our young people, and that is why we have earmarked a substantial pot of money to spend on developing facilities.”
Some of the most difficult changes only taking effect from 2014/15 to give time for consultation, to ensure they are implemented in the fairest possible way, and to give partners/providers sufficient time to adjust.
Proposals that have been rejected include introducing charges for bulky household waste, withdrawing funding for a domestic violence accommodation unit and reducing funded childcare places.
Deputy Mayor and Cabinet member for Finance, Councillor Paul Brant, said: “This has been an exceptionally difficult budget to set as once again, despite Liverpool being recognised as having the most need of any area in the country, we have had to face the highest level of cuts.
“We are doing our very best to mitigate the impact and do it as fairly and equitably as possible, but it is simply wrong that people in the poorest city in the country should have to shoulder cuts amounting to £252 per household when the national average is £60.”
Overall the council is facing a reduction of £290 million from 2011-17 – which includes £46 million in 2014/15, £35 million in 2015/16 and £36m in 2016/17.