Council tax increase to protect children’s social care

Council tax in Liverpool is set to rise by 61 pence a week for most households in Liverpool – with investment in children’s social care among the budget priorities.

Papers being considered by the Cabinet next week will propose a rise of 2.99 percent, meaning an increase of £31.93 per year for the 60 percent of households living in a Band A home.

Overall, an additional £14.5 million is being found for children’s services, which will also help fund the recruitment of more social workers to reduce workloads and provide more intensive support for young people in care and their families as well as dealing with demand pressures.

Other areas of investment include major economic regeneration projects such as Paddington Village, new office space at Pall Mall and the new Cruise Liner terminal and £2 million for major cultural events which deliver a significant economic return for the city.

The council needs to deliver savings of £21 million of savings between now and April 2020, with efficiencies proposed including reduced opening hours for the contact centre (£1 million), ICT savings (£1.1 million) and reducing the number of council buildings (£1.9 million).

Overall the council has lost 63 percent of its central government funding since 2010 – equivalent to £436 million per year – making it the worst hit city for austerity per head of population, as highlighted in a recent Centre for Cities report.

If the council had the average housing mix and had received the average cut, it is estimated that it would be £179 million better off.

The Cabinet report warns that ongoing Government reviews over spending and funding for councils are likely to have a significant impact on the amount of funding the council will receive from 2020/21 onwards.

Over the next few months the council will be starting a consultation with residents about making communities more independent and less reliant on local authority services.

Mayor of Liverpool Joe Anderson said: “It is perverse that the poorest city in the country has been hardest hit by cuts in central Government funding, and it gives me no pleasure at all in asking people to pay more in council tax.

“But if we are to continue to fund services for the most vulnerable in the city we need to increase bills in order to make sure we are doing the right thing by people.

“By 2020 we will have lost almost two thirds of the budget that we had back in 2010 and this has had a huge impact on our ability to deliver services. We have 3,000 fewer staff, have transferred some buildings and services across to other organisations and have stopped doing some things that were previously part of our work.

“Looking to the future, we are going to have a serious conversation with the people of the city about how services look from 2020 onwards, because a combination of Government reviews of council funding combined with the huge economic uncertainty posed by Brexit means we are going to have to deliver things differently in the future.

“A major priority for us is developing a new relationship with our residents and communities about giving people more say on how money is spent, building on the strength of our communities so residents can do more for themselves.”

The expansion of house building in the city is helping bring in additional funding – the number of Band D properties is 986 more than forecast – generating an extra £1.6m per year of Council Tax income.

Following consideration by the Cabinet on Friday 22 February and Audit and Governance Select Committee on Monday 25 February, the budget will be set at a meeting of the council on Wednesday 6 March.