As we enter into 2019, I want to issue a heartfelt thank you to all the staff and partners of Liverpool City Council.
Every year since 2010 there has been less money available to spend on services and every year our staff have worked harder to soften the blow.
It’s a sign of their professionalism and compassion that they work so diligently to make sure vital public services keep running to such a high standard.
The whole city should be proud that despite these extreme circumstances they continue to deliver exceptional results, underpinning the daily life of our communities and city.
I also want to thank my cabinet and councillors who have been very supportive in 2018, not just to me but to the communities they serve and support. They spend every day passionately standing up for the people and organisations in their neighbourhoods, striving for the very best for our city.
The sad thing is we could have achieved so much more as a City if we had been treated fairly by this Government. However, despite the fact we know we are not being listened to, I promise that we will continue to argue our case at the highest level. At every opportunity.
I find it almost hard to believe that we have been able to manage keeping our City running and delivering services in the way we have. In 2010, when I formed my Administration, we received from Government just over £523 million. With inflation in real terms that would now be the equivalent of £690 million. The reality is we now receive £246 million. That’s a real terms reduction of -£443.24 million. That’s a 64% cut. That’s unforgiveable.
In 2019 we will need to do more of this, and I want to thank the community organisations, NHS, CCG, charities, CIC’s, social enterprises and companies who have all helped to reshape our services, keep standards high, and allow facilities like the libraries, children’s centres, leisure centres and youth centres to all stay open. I also want to pay a special tribute to our Trade Union members and their representatives who work alongside us and understand who is to blame for the circumstances we are in.
We are in the second year of our three-year budget, which we agreed in 2017. The most recent Local Government Finance Settlement gives no respite, despite the false claims by the Prime Minister that “Austerity is over”. We have to find savings of another £40 million by April 2020 so the truth is more austerity, more cuts and more pain.
I feel so angry. Because of these financial cuts imposed on us, services that affect thousands of people in this City will be stopped or reduced.
Our workforce, as you may know, has been reduced by 3,000 since 2010. Our financial reserves are spent and the income we get is seriously less than the money we need to spend. Let me once again state, we are not implementing cuts, we are dealing with the funding cut we are given – that’s a fundamental difference.
It’s a good reminder that Liverpool has a long, proud, tradition of protest for social change, but we are at our best when we produce the social change. Innovation is in our DNA.
Liverpool is famous around the world for breaking new ground – the first in public health, the first to appoint a Cabinet Member for fairness and one for Disability and Inclusion, the first to recognise our LGBT Quarter, the first to set up a public art gallery and the first to build municipal housing – a policy which I’m proud to say we are reviving.
Liverpool is best when it decides to set new standards with new ideas.
Even though we face tough financial times ahead with £40 million to find before April 2020, we have to continue to provide support and hope. I am confident most people in Liverpool understand that the extremely difficult decisions we have to make are not being made by choice.
I didn’t enter politics to cut social care services, but I did enter politics to do everything I can for the most vulnerable in my city. That’s why I will lead our cabinet and council in making a budget which reflects our priorities and approach growing our economy and protecting the most vulnerable.
Local Government is struggling and being slowly choked to death and many Councils will go under in the next few years, as there is no change planned by a Government, which is gripped in self-inflicted Brexit chaos.
For over two years Westminster has been consumed by Brexit and nothing else. Devolution has ground to a halt, services continue to be starved of funding and deteriorating, never have I seen such weak leadership, the NHS, Criminal Justice System, Education, Housing, Transport, the Economy and many more of our vital services are failing. I have no doubt that Brexit is going to deliver even more misery, with the economy and employment being hit really hard, with the worst still to come.
More than ever then we need strong local leadership, because, we are heading for a situation of a no deal Brexit, with all the uncertainty this brings. Our City needs clear strategies and plans to steer us through what is the inevitable of more uncertainty. We need to promote those clear plans to continue our City Growth Strategy, including Our Invest to Earn and save approach we have adopted so successfully over these past eight years.
One of the challenges we are winning is the way Liverpool is seen elsewhere. We have an incredible story to tell, and a surprising one. Liverpool is one of the great cities of the world and it is down to me, to you, to all of us who have an attachment to Liverpool, to share our amazing renaissance across the UK and the world.
I have often spoken of the Tale of Two Cities, where one city prospers and the other is unfairly beaten and bludgeoned. When I met Jeremy Corbyn he agreed with me about the despicable nature of this government’s austerity agenda. But he also agreed with me that the only response is to work together. I am confident we can still prosper, still make our city more financially sustainable so that we can look after the most vulnerable.
Creating a successful city that is fair for all. Those are my values and they are Liverpool’s too.