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'Worst cuts in living memory'

Larry Neild at Liverpool Town Hall witnesses the dreaded blows

Published on February 22nd 2011.

'Worst cuts in living memory'

SO now we know where the spending axe will fall in Liverpool, following the announcement of the coming budget proposals.

Speaking one-to-one with Joe Anderson earlier this week, he told me if Liverpool had failed to make the Government-ordered spending cuts the city would have been declared bankrupt by this Christmas.

It’s much worse this time; in fact we wouldn’t be able to afford the taxis to deliver redundancy notices

Effectively the tills at the City Treasury would have run dry, no money to pay staff, let alone pay the bills.

Cllr Anderson gives short shrift to critics who say Liverpool’s anti-cuts rant is a throwback to the Militant days when taxis were used to deliver redundancy notices to staff. That one act gave then Labour leader Neil Kinnock a chance to make that high profile attack on Derek Hatton at the Bournmouth Party Conference in 1985.

He told me: “It’s much worse this time; in fact we wouldn’t be able to afford the taxis to deliver redundancy notices.”

Millions of pounds are being taken from the budget that keeps hundreds of voluntary groups around the city afloat. As well as that every directorate is losing around 25% of budgets.

This Sunday’s ‘One City, One Voice’ march and rally from the Anglican cathedral to St George’s Hall at 1pm, will send a message to the Government that Liverpool opposes the cuts.

Having drawn up a budget that incorporates those very cuts I can well imagine David Cameron and Eric Pickles to be brazen enough to send Joe a ‘Well Done’ congratulations telegram. One thing seems certain – they won’t be sending a new cheque.

So where is the axe falling?

There’s likely to be few signs of change in libraries and leisure centres for some months, perhaps until the summer. This is because there has to be a statutory consultation period and discussions with unions.

The current £14m libraries budget will be cut by £485,000 this year rising to £1.9m next year, essentially a 28 percent cut. There are likely to be shorter opening hours, with the possibility of six or seven libraries closed altogether.

Arts and cultural organisations funded by the council, including the RLPO, will receive 20 percent less from the council this year.

Grants to voluntary and community groups will be halved this year. They’ll get £19m, with cuts totalling £18m. It will mean some groups having to close.

The Park Ranger Service will be scaled back, with support for ‘Friends of Parks’ groups reduced.

Burying or cremating our dearly departed will become dearer.

The council service to play Pied Piper for rat and mouse infestations will stay, but people with problems caused by fleas, bedbugs and cockroaches are on their own.

Secure for this year are the Mathew Street Festival, though the number of days will be reduced, as are the Mersey River Festival, Hub Festival, Chinese New Year and the Slavery Remembrance Day.

There will, though, be a reduction in the number of council-backed arts and cultural events. Casualties include the Performing Arts Festival and the Lord Mayor’s Parade.

Four of the council’s 26 children’s centres are earmarked for closure to save £6m. Transport passes for children in further education will be scrapped and restrictions will be introduced on passes for children attending faith schools. The city’s Youth Service will have its budget cut by 21 percent.

Expect to see more pot-holes with spending on road maintenance, street cleaning, parks and open spaces cut by £5.8m But the weekly bin collection stays. The good news .... council tax will remain the same as the current year.

The measures, supported by all four groups on the city council, are a result of a £91m funding gap imposed by the Coalition Government.

Anticipating stormy days ahead, the council has already saved £30m by reducing senior management costs, reducing back-office costs and increasing efficiency. The number of top people has reduced from 91 to 43, saving £4.5m.

The vulnerable are protected, with the cut to Children’s Care Services cut by just 1 percent, and the adult care budget cut by just 3 percent. Critical and substantial care of the elderly will continue, but the current service known as ‘moderate care’ (running errands, visiting elderly people) will go.

The council will use EU money to train and re-skill 2,000 work-ready people, and also create 500 apprenticeships.

Earlier this month Joe Anderson announced 1,500 job losses. That number could now be 1,200 or fewer, with most leaving on a voluntary basis.

The draft budget will go to the council Cabinet on February 25, with a final decision made by the full City Council at the Town Hall on March 2. Until then the public can have its say.

What the party leaders say...

Labour Councillor Joe Anderson, City Council leader, said: “There is no disguising the fact these are the most severe cuts we have had to make in generations. While we have tried to protect front-line services, especially those to vulnerable people, the sheer scale of the cuts mean that it has not always been possible to do that.

“We have had to make heartbreaking decisions which will cause real pain in our communities. That is a direct result of Liverpool being the hardest hit of any council in the reduction of grants, grants previously given in view of the levels of deprivation in the city. Unfortunately the deprivation remains but the money has been removed.”

Leader of the main Opposition Liberal Democrats, Councillor Warren Bradley, said: "Liverpool's political parties were all in agreement over the need to come together to deliver this budget, following substantial changes in the way local government is financed.

"We had to put political differences to one side to ensure we delivered the best deal possible and to minimise the amount of job losses to the people of Liverpool.

"Our priority has been to produce a budget which causes the least possible harm to our communities, but it has been extremely difficult.

We have considered every possible option and left no stone unturned in our attempts to find savings, while protecting our most vital services.”Councillor Steve Radford, Leader of the Liberal Group, said: “It has been a first in living memory for councillors that we have sunk party differences to seek to deal with this horrendous budget situation and injustice where Liverpool has been more adversely impacted upon than any other city in the country.

“That aside, we have all had to make cutbacks we deeply resent but keeping the city solvent is vital to all our communities, our workforce and future reputation.”

Leader of the Green Party Group Councillor Sarah Jennings, said: “These unprecedented cuts from the Government will be absolutely devastating for Liverpool, and the decisions the city has had to make in setting its budget have been extremely difficult and painful.

“The city's political parties have responded to this uniquely perilous situation by working together on the budget, sharing ideas and trying to make sure every decision we make is fair.”

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29 comments so far, continue the conversation, write a comment.

AnonymousFebruary 17th 2011.

Wonder how these people in government sleep?

CitizenCainFebruary 18th 2011.

Good report, thank you LC, but the couincil should have spelled out now what is closing and what is staying. They already have in their sights what will go and stay but won't say. What will happen now is when they announce individual library or leisure centre closures,people will protest and who will they blame - the council, not the government. Councillor Anderson and his new friends should have boxed clever by getting it out in the open now. They will only have themselves to blame so we can expect to see Granada and BBC NWT zooming in on angry resident protests for months to come.
Of course they will have a point because the targets for closures will be political. Look at the four children's centres due to close, they are more or less non-Labour areas. And what about Warren Bradley spouting about putting political differences to one side for the sake of Liverpool. OMG, it's his bleedin party imposing this on our city. The Lib Dems should have resigned en-masse from their party as a protest. This really is Schitzo politics.

Oliver TwistFebruary 18th 2011.

Tough Titty,this city had 6 billion for the Capital of Vultures then they had the cheek to say after the event "OH WE NEED MORE MONEY we are one of the poorest cities in Europe".Well every disabled ,claiment,blind person, and people on ICB and DLA will be cut by a third of their income so I really do not feel sorry for the council.You the council have charged enough in Council tax over the years,you have had street cleaners out on a sunday and saturday in my area even after 8pm on some days ,double time and whatever, you had you spent it and you the council have a had a rather large lunch for a very long time.TIME TO EAT HUMBLE PIE and go cry in your beer.WORDS that come to mind horse and stable.Please sir can we have more? ......NO is the answer.

AnonymousFebruary 18th 2011.

Oliver, you appear to have your knickers and your figures in a twist. Do you work for the Daily Mail? If not, you should call them.

AnonymousFebruary 18th 2011.

No I certainly do not read the Daily Mail,but you have to admit it,this council has wasted million or yours and my money over a long time.
It makes no difference to the toffs in London.The city turns over abillion plus a day and everything else ouaide that square mile is and always has been surplus to requirements not just here but eveywhere.Who'd have thought it Britain becoming a third world nation.That will learn us kissing the arses of the Chinese ,like.

allen35February 18th 2011.

I think as a city we all have to make cuts and hopefully most of the job losses will be through voluntary redundancy. My concern is the cuts to the charity & voluntary sector who are at the forefront of community harmony and stability. On another note shouldn't the Council be more responsible in recovering Council Tax. Millions(£12.8) of pounds unpaid in the 09/10 year alone was reported today by the BBC. Surely more stringent measures need to be implemented and maybe, only maybe, we wouldn't have to reduce the budget by as much and in doing so retaining front line services that are needed in this great City.

Oliver TwistFebruary 18th 2011.

No I certainly do not read the Daily Mail.

Hanging on the telephoneFebruary 18th 2011.

I see LDL is staying, and with it the thousands of pounds needed to maintain each single computer. Can someone explain how this self serving organisation gets Teflon protection?

AnonymousFebruary 18th 2011.

Oliver perhaps if the idiot residents in your area where a little tidier and took their crap home with them we wouldn't need to send the street cleaners out of a weekend/night. get a grip man

Oliver TwistFebruary 18th 2011.

The coucil around Liverpool 8 cleaned 2 -3 times a week in our road.It was not because the residents were litter louts they did it to appease the voters.That's what i am trying to tell you, is that it was work for works sake.A total waste of money and their whole budget wants looking into.How come Derek Hatton became a multi millionaire?

The Voice of ReasonFebruary 18th 2011.

Allen35. The Council Tax is expensive to administer and collect, especially when one considers the relatively puny proportion of Council funding it actually provides. In many cases it is much cheaper to write off debts than to waste taxpayers' money pursuing people who can't pay anyway. (But of course your Tory press would never mention the other side of the story, would it?)

As Laz said in a recent article, it would be far more sensible to abolish the costly and wasteful Cuncil Tax and fund local government from general taxation which already comprises over 80% of Council funding.

Artful DodgerFebruary 18th 2011.

Oliver, that's not the Council that cleans the streets. Cleaning services and bin collections were put out to private sector tenders under the LAST Tory government in the 1990s.

You really ought to keep up with the times.

cynicFebruary 18th 2011.

a quick look at last year's city accounts might give some kneejerks pause for thought. The 547 apex feeders 'working' for the city - on 50k plus - cost us circa £40m in salaries, pensions and bonuses in the financial year 2009/10. (Colin Hilton got £203k salary; £25k bonuses and a very agreeable £49k into his pension pot)
Contrast and compare with the 03/04 accounts. Total number getting 50k plus? A mere 100. Total bill to the taxpayers? £4.6m. Even adding in a mill or so for pensions and bonuses, we are still looking at a six, sevenfold increase in the cost of top feeders
That just cannot be reconciled with inflation rates over that period. Nor with any other material changes in the way the city's 'services' are delivered.
Isnt it time this obscene feeding frenzy by those in charge of the tuck shop was exposed?

AnonymousFebruary 18th 2011.

The banks which helped get us in to this mess (wasn't entirely their fault) were bailed out by the tax payer to the tune of billions. - IT WAS OUR MONEY REMEMBER. As private companies these banks where simply bought out by the government and semi nationalised by buying up the majority of the individual banks' shares. These shares have now since TRIPLED!!!! Where has this money gone may I ask and why was this newly accumualted 'wealth' not re-invested back to whence it came!! That's opur money Mr. Cameron, not yours. We want it back please. (Or am I missing something?)

ADFebruary 18th 2011.

Selling the bank shares would be a drop in the ocean, they may be worth 3 times what the government paid but buying isolvent banks wasnt were the money went. It went on 'loans' to those banks to recapitalise them, we just took ownership of some of their shares in return. The value of the shareholding does not reflect the amount of cash used to prop them up, and the loans were used to cover bad debt and we wont get back anything like what we paid in.

Re the cuts 50% cut in comunity/charity sector funding vs a 25% cut in council services. Presumably the council thinks job lossess in the voulenteer sector wont be blamed on it so it hits them hardest.

AnonymousFebruary 18th 2011.

Cynic is right to question the salaries and surplus 'quangos I agree the amount is tremendous so lets start at the top and reduce some of the positions that are truly surplus and a drain on our budget. Mr Anderson just show that this is not political and cut the legs from the Government and demonstrate that we can survive and let the rest of the country then follow our lead. Go for it Joe and set an example - the City will back you

L15 ratepayerFebruary 18th 2011.

Look at the finer detail and in the past year the council has weeded out millions of pounds of waste through improving efficiency. Remember the council bin service. It employed 1,200 men and the collection service was terrible. There were times when the whole crew would be grounded because a side light had gone on the big wagon and they had to await an electrician to change it. The spark in turn had to head off to the supplies depot to get the bulb. The laugh was the wagons were never out in darkness anyway so they didn't need any lights. Look at it now, around 200 collectors, maybe less and a brilliant service provided by the private sector. Chicks are coming home to roost for many council employees and the days of them getting a good salary for twiddling their thumbs all day (and I bet that was hard work for many of them) are coming to an end. If there was a column in the HR records for staff suffering from overwork and exhausation it would be blank.

AnonymousFebruary 18th 2011.

Well if you think this is bad, wait until next year when there will be another round of cuts, in many cases worse than this year. Slash and burn has only just started. A bonfire awaits.

Jonathan MackieFebruary 18th 2011.

@Artful Dodger 18 February 2011, 11:48:52

Actually the cleansing was transferred to Enterprise in 2003, which was in the middle of the disaster of a Labour Government. Nothing to do with the Tories.

Jonathan MackieFebruary 18th 2011.

How about reducing the number of officers in the Chief Executive's and Leader's offices. It is as if they are running the West Wing in there.

How about the Council actually stops doing somethings it should be doing. Like economic development for a start. Let the market decide.

AnonymousFebruary 18th 2011.

Economic development? Haven't they sorted that with the Liverpool Embassey? (joke)

Oliver TwistFebruary 18th 2011.

So now we have our own Emabassy what ajoke indeed a stones throw from Liverpool St EC2,in one of the most expensive cities in the world well I am so glad we can afford it. After all it's only money ours that is.So much for a consultation with the rate payer or what do you think of this idea Trebles and jollies to London ,NYC ,and Beiging.Big society my arse more like big wallets the robbing bastards.

Old GetFebruary 18th 2011.

Ah stop whingeing you lot.
Think of all the good things the Con Dems have done for us.

Anyway, crucifixion isn't that bad.

saladdazeFebruary 18th 2011.

I agree. Stop whingeing. Hang the bankers.

AllTogetherNowFebruary 18th 2011.

Here's an idea. Let our 90 councillors in Liverpool hand over their allowances just for a year and use the money to help many of the doomed voluntary groups that will go to the wall. Even giving up the basic allowance of around ten grand each will hand around a cool million into the pot. Joe Anderson and his top tab le say every family in the city will be affected by the cuts. So come on Joe, Warren, Steve and Sarah, show some proper 'we're all in it together' spirit and throw you exes into the ring. It will set a great example, come on let's all join in ....,. All Together Now. Excuse me, what's this, not a brass farthing in the ring. Should have known. We should make better use of our Liver Bird emblem by showing how our great leaders are more interested in feathering their own nests. All in it together. FFS, what a load of old bollocks.

Jonathan MackieFebruary 19th 2011.

The problem of course is that Liverpool is so grant dependent. Much more so than other Authorities, so when government reduces its grants to local government Liverpool takes a greater hit.

Who to blame. Well, the Labour Council of the 80s and 90s destroyed to local tax base. Too many band A and B houses and not enought E, F and G banded houses.

PeoplePowerlessFebruary 21st 2011.

So around 5,000 people marched on Sunday. yes it was good to see some ordinary citizens out, but I bet Cameron, Cleggy, Pickles are not wetting themselves. In the mis 80s when the council were fighting less severe cuts there were tens and tens of thousands on the march in Liverpool. Who can forget the spectacle of Castle Street, jammed packed with protesting from the steps of the town hall to Lord Street and beyond. On a firework scale the 80s was a 'rocket' and yesterday was a sparkler, no doubt with health and safety people warning about getting yours fingers burned. The government will only listen when ordinary folk, in their thousands and thousands, speak out and speak up. Otherwise let's get on with what we've got and stop moaning.

AnonymousFebruary 21st 2011.

I can't imagine why Anderson, Bradley and co led 5,000 people out into the cold and rain today when the cuts have already been made.
Isn't a bit like closing the stable door?

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