Residents in Liverpool are being invited to try and balance the books when it comes to deciding the city council’s spending priorities for the coming year.
Over the past two financial years the local authority has had to find savings of £141 million – £91 million in 2011-12 and a further £50 million by end of 2012-13.
The council gets 80 percent of its money from central Government, and as a result of severe cuts to grants from Whitehall, anticipates having to find a further £143 million in savings over the next four years (to the end of 2016-17).
For the next financial year (2013-14), £32 million needs to be found – and all options are being considered.
As part of the consultation process, people are being invited to use You Choose, an online budget calculator. They have a choice of boosting or cutting spending, making efficiencies and generating income – but they have to balance the books.
Mayor Joe Anderson said: “We face some horrendous decisions due to the cuts which have been imposed upon us by central Government.
“Four out of every five pounds we spend comes from Whitehall, with only a relatively small proportion of our income generated through council tax. The scale of the reduction means that no area of our spending will be immune.
“We face some stark and difficult choices. People should be under no illusion that it will change the way we deliver services forever and will impact on the lives of people in the city.
“But I am clear that we have no choice but to make these decisions and set a legal and balanced budget. Failure to do so would be an abdication of responsibility and mean the Government would send in somebody to do it for us, with no regard to the council’s priorities.
“This is a chance for local people to tell us what their priorities are and where they would choose to direct our spending if they had control of our finances.
“The information that is fed into the system will be included as part of the consultation when we come to make choices in order to balance the books.
“We want to protect, as far as possible, the essential services to the most vulnerable. However, given the scale of the reductions we face, and coming on top of already having to find £141million in the past two years, even important front-line services will not escape the impact.
“We are determined to be as open and honest as we can about the process, because the decisions we make will affect every single resident in one way or another.”
Budget options are being released in three tranches so that there is proper detailed consideration of the consequences before setting the final budget in March 2013. The first tranche have already been approved by Cabinet and will be considered by Full Council on 7 November.
The spending categories which people can consider and prioritise are:
Housing and neighbourhoods
Culture, Sports & Leisure
Roads and refuse
Environment and regeneration
Council support and public engagement
Feedback from You Choose, which is open until 4 January, will form part of the budget-setting process. There will be other public consultation exercises and regular updates posted onto the Mayor’s website.