Faith and council leaders from England’s biggest cities met in Liverpool on Friday 18 January to discuss how to tackle Government cuts in the fairest possible way.
The event – titled “Come Together” – was led by Mayor of Liverpool Joe Anderson and the Bishop of Liverpool, the Right Reverend James Jones.
It was held at the BT Convention Centre and attended by representatives of other major UK cities including Bristol, Birmingham, Newcastle and Sheffield.
Mayor Anderson said: “These are the toughest times ever for local government with unprecedented reductions in funding which will change forever the way in which we deliver services. Nobody will be left untouched by the scale of cuts.
“Big cities have been hit the hardest, and in Liverpool we have lost more than half of our controllable government grant spending. By 2017 we estimate we will have lost £289 million a year since 2010.
“Those who say we should just not implement the cuts fail to realise that we have no choice, as the Government will come in and do it for us – without applying the compassion or the fairness that we can.
“However, we have a duty to our residents to protest to the Government in the strongest possible terms about the impact their cuts are having here and across the rest of the country and get them to sit up and take notice.
“We are demanding the Government listens, not just to the politicians, but to our faith representatives who witness the damage being done in our communities every day as a result of the cuts, and that they take notice of the dire situation we are in. We will be highlighting how their policies are jeopardising the core services we provide to the most vulnerable in society.”
The representatives attending from other cities were:
Birmingham – Council Leader Sir Albert Bore Bristol – Mayor George Ferguson Newcastle – Council Leader Nick Forbes and Dean of Newcastle Chris Dalliston Sheffield – Council Leader Julie Dore and Archdeacon of Sheffield and Rotherham Martyn Snow
The conference heard from civic leaders from each city, giving a response to the messages and conveying a strong collective argument as to how the cuts are being felt across communities.
The Bishop of Liverpool, the Right Reverend James Jones, highlighted the issue in the House of Lords before Christmas, when he described the cuts as “draconian”.
During the debate, which took place in the Houses of Parliament on 29 November, Bishop James said: “I do not deny the need to be financially prudent or the need to live within our means. I also understand how difficult it is for the Government to be pressed persistently to fund all the demands on the public purse. The question I want to press is not whether there should be cuts to the budget but, rather, how assured the Government are that the financial settlement across the nation is fair.
He added: “The city of Liverpool is expected to reduce its [government grant] spending by 52 percent over the next four years. For people to be able to accept such drastic measures there has to be a sense of fairness across the country. There is genuine fear in the city over the impact of 25 percent cuts in adult social care over the next four years and 25 percent cuts in children’s services. It is demoralising to analyse the statistics across the country and discover that, far from there being a level playing field, there are staggeringly steep differences in funding across the nation, which makes the pain of applying these cuts even more severe.”
A new website has been launched – www.come-together.co.uk – urging people to come together and asking people to sign a parliamentary e-petition calling for a debate in the House of Commons urging the Government to urgently rethink its policy, and to apply the cuts more fairly across the country, protecting those most in need. It can be found here.
Arising from the conference, the Bishop of Liverpool will lead a high-profile delegation of faith leaders to the Government to put forward the arguments for fairness.