The Mayor of Liverpool, Joe Anderson, is demanding an apology in Parliament after a Government Minister inaccurately accused the City Council of spending £2m on Beatles memorabilia.
In a parliamentary exchange yesterday, Liverpool Walton MP Steve Rotheram asked Brandon Lewis, the Parliamentary Under-secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, what work had been done to assess the impact of cutting £156m from the City Council’s budget.
In response, Mr Lewis made a number of allegations, including one that the City Council had spent £2m on Beatles memorabilia. The city council has not incurred any such expenditure. It is thought that the Minister is referring to the Beatles Story, which is actually owned by Merseytravel.
Mayor Anderson said: “Once again, this Government is making scurrilous allegations about me and about the city of Liverpool which are blatantly untrue. This is appalling behaviour.
“The fact that they did this just days before we set a budget which will cut our spending by £156m over the next three years shows just how seriously they are taking the financial situation we have been left in. Instead of answering a reasonable question about how the Government has assessed the impact of its spending cuts on Liverpool, he has decided to mislead people again. The Minister has shown his contempt for the people of this city by making such ludicrous response to a serious question.
“I am demanding he personally apologises in Parliament for this, as his claims not only damage my reputation but the reputation of the Council.”
Mr Lewis claimed:
Liverpool City Council spent £2m on Beatles Memorabilia which is now worth £300,000. FACT – Liverpool City Council has never purchased Beatles memorabilia.
Liverpool City Council is not using its £136m reserves properly. FACT – Liverpool’s reserves (in household terms, its savings account) are actually £115m and these will reduce to £37m as we manage our way through the budget reductions. There are strict financial regulations on how this money can be spent and much of it is held for very specific purposes. For example, nearly £8m is held for insurance reserves, and this saves a lot of money as the city council doesn’t need to pay for insurance premiums, which would be much more expensive.
Collecting uncollected Council Tax currently costs every tax-paying household in Liverpool £500. FACT – Liverpool collects 96% of Council Tax, comparable to UK core cities and top quartile performance of all local authorities. Where Liverpool differs is that that City Council does not routinely write off old Council Tax debts. Last year alone, the City Council bought in £8m in historic Council Tax debts as well as £300,000 Poll Tax debts.
Liverpool spent a quarter of its budget on cultural events. FACT – last year Liverpool spent 0.2% of its total budget (£1.2m from an overall budget of £507m) on cultural events and this brought in £10.6m into the local economy.
Liverpool spends £650 a day on a Labour spin doctor. FACT – the City Council funds no posts which support the work of any political party. Meanwhile the Government’s own full time Spin Doctor was appointed to a post in 2012 at £140,000 per year.
Liverpool City Council has spent money on a £90,000 per year car. FACT – the City Council has not spent anywhere near £90,000 per year on any car and never will. We can only respond to this allegation, which is incapable of substantiation, by saying we do not recognise any truth in this claim at all.
Mayor Anderson added: “Once again, we’ve seen the Government make a series of bizarre claims about the City Council as a way of diverting the debate away from the serious issue – which is how the Government’s 58% cuts to our funding will impact on the lives of the people of Liverpool.
“Tomorrow – with a heavy heart – I am setting a three year budget which will impact on every single service the Council delivers. There have been some absolutely heart-breaking decisions and the real work will begin when we start consulting and implementing these.
“I was not elected Mayor of my city to cut services to the people who elected me but the Government cuts have left me with no choice. I have nothing to hide about the city’s finances and have invited the Government on many occasions to visit Liverpool and look through our books. I am extending that invitation again directly to Brandon Lewis.”