New year message from the Mayor of Liverpool

I find it difficult to put into words how disappointed I feel right now about the recent general election result and what it means for our city its finances and for you.

As you know, we have a total amount of £57 million to find in order to set a legal and balanced budget by 4 March 2020. In terms of whether we can manage this, well, it is going to be really difficult and we will have to make some tough choices. I will be setting an increase in council tax of 3.99 per cent and while I’m aware we are asking people who are struggling to pay more but, simply, we have little choice.

I am confident, however, we will produce a balanced budget. What I cannot do is predict what happens next in terms of how this government will treat our city for future funding. 

If this government continues with the policy of austerity and cutting local government finances, as it has done since 2010, we will face some very, very, real serious financial problems ahead of us.

This will inevitably mean losing more services to an extent we have never seen before in our history. Unless the government changes its position, we as a city will need to decide what we do next. I have already arranged for some of the government’s treasury advisors to visit Liverpool at the end of January so, once again, we can make our case for assistance and support, let’s hope they listen now. 

You can be assured I will be making it very clear we are being punished for things we cannot change. Nearly £250 million per year goes on social care for adults and children, something we cannot change – and the pressure on us to provide more is getting worse, when we only raise £174 million in council tax. We are proud of supporting those most in need of our support, but we alone cannot carry that burden.

My priorities are, I believe, aligned with yours. Our principles and values as a city are rooted in a firm belief in equality and fairness. We will always make provision for those who need our support, I know it’s what you want me to do.

I would like to personally thank all those that helped to support families during 2019, especially the Christmas period.  With a 50 per cent increase in the use of food banks since April it is going to be needed even more during 2020. We have to make sure that in everything we do we are truly inclusive and with help and hope for everyone.

As I drove around on Christmas Eve, dropping off and giving out food and presents it was heart-warming to see the hundreds of volunteers helping and giving support to families in Liverpool.

Once again, thank you to all who donated and helped. I don’t describe this support as charity – I proudly call it solidarity.  It is what we as Scousers do best: join up, come together and help those who need it most.

No other city provides as much support for the poorest and most vulnerable as we do. Our rough sleeping shelter, Labre House, is the only one of its kind in the country. Our Benefits Maximisation Service is one of the best teams, our Citizens Support Service and even the level of council tax support are the most generous in the country. This will continue in 2020 – a sad state of affairs but necessary.

Another priority for us in 2020 is to continue the innovation and focus on housing in the city.  My deal with government to wipe the historic council housing debt means that we can once again include council housing in our growing provision of housing, for the first time in 30 years. I have long believed that good quality, sustainable and affordable, housing should be seen as a right for people, not a challenge. Families, new and old, should be able to depend on housing that helps them reach their potential and keep them healthy. That’s why we have built over 11,000 homes, including the first of our new council homes which have been let to families this year. 

We will build more this year, of all types – council housing, rent to buy, big houses for foster families and smaller houses for downsizing. We need more of the right-type of housing for every situation and we can be proud that Liverpool will continue to lead the way on making this happen.

Austerity and a national government that won’t listen will never beat us. We won’t cower or give up which is why we have an Invest to Earn Strategy that helps us to protect services and we will do more. I was walking around the waterfront with Marg, my wife, and some of the grandkids on Sunday and Marg commented on the Pullman Hotel. I told her that the city owns the hotel and we get £1.6 million from the sale of rooms each year. She was surprised, but it is this type of investment that is bringing us in an extra £58 million or so in revenue each year.  

Many of our investments are helping replace the money we used to receive from government.  For example, Paddington Village is a development on a Mayoral Development Zone, which is as big as anywhere in Europe.  In total, it is 30 acres in three phases. The first phase is being built out now, and this phase alone will bring us millions more in business rates.  This is why we do these developments – because all of this extra revenue goes on the services that real people rely on.

There have been 12,000 new homes, including 3,500 houses refurbished since 2010, along with 30,000 new jobs created and 4,500 new businesses supported, not to mention 18 new schools. All these developments and businesses are bringing in new revenue and helping us keep services going.

I can promise even more of the same in 2020 and beyond, with some really exciting announcements coming shortly. There are five miles of development from Bramley Moore Dock to Kings Dock and through to the Festival Gardens site, with some very exciting plans to bring alive our important waterfront.

I often say that this is the greatest job in the world – standing up for, and making the best of, my city. Since 2010, I have had the privilege of leading Liverpool and I thank every single person who has played a part helping me, and others, to run this city, especially against the background of austerity.

2020 will be a difficult year, but we have faced similar challenges before and guided by our values and our passion we will face the year head on and I am confident that we will find the solutions we need.

Thank you for taking the time to read this message for the New Year. Together, we can ensure another year of accomplishment and support each other through the difficult challenges ahead. I hope you all have great 2020.

Best wishes,

Joe