Yesterday we had a budget meeting of the Council when our Council tax went up by an inflation busting 3.9% for the 7th year running.
The budget meeting is always something of a formal farce. We all know that a budget is not for one day in the year but for every day in the year. If you don’t take intelligent decisions about how to use your money throughout the year you cannot rectify the problems created on just one day.
In our opinion there is a lot of money wasted within our local government system in the Liverpool area. Yesterday I pointed out yet again that we would take urgent moves to ger rid of the positions of Police Commissioner and City Mayor. These moves along would save £2.3 million which could either be used to reduce your tax levels or to provide services that you think are needed.
These positions are the tip of the iceberg. Liverpool still wastes money. As just one example we are now spending a total of £1.9 million to provide a new home for Calder Kids Adventure Play Ground for disabled children when their former building, on the Harthill Estate which Labour wanted to sell to Redrow, when their existing place could have been renovated to a high standard for just £100,000. In addition, they have not yet been able to move into the new accommodation so the Labour controlled council have given upwards of £150,000 to the organisation not to provide a service to disabled kids!
I can give so many more examples of paying senior staff like our former Chief Executive, not to work and money spent on road resurfacing which had to be redone after just three months!
So, we voted for the budget because on the day no other option was really possible. To keep council tax under control we need a root and branch change in the way that things are done in Liverpool.
In doing so we also voted against the Green amendment which was frankly dreadful. They put forward a motion that would have spent £120 million over 4 years on a list of undefined and uncosted environmental issues. Most of the areas that they want to spend money on are, in the view of Lib Dems, the right ones but the way they went about it was just plain wrong. We will not give the Council a blank cheque to spend on uncosted programmes with no implementation plans prepared.
This is a point we made last year when they did much the same thing. In addition, the amendment would have reduced our grant from the Government to be spent on road resurfacing programmes by up to £30 million this year alone. It really is about time that the Green Party in Liverpool understood how national and local government funding work and interweave.
The sad thing is that everyone agrees that big change is necessary but Labour seem to eb unable to actually do anything about it. In September we had a special Council Meeting to consider the desperate straits that the Council is in. We agreed then as a Council that fundamental change is necessary. We not only passed a motion but have challenged the Tory Government to work with us on a value for money agenda.
I have offered both publicly and privately to work with Joe Anderson and the Labour Party to look at ways in which the changes might be achieved. In the 7 months since the September Council meeting, we have not had one single meeting together about these potential changes.
Of course, one of the principal reasons that we have these problems is huge cuts in local government rants started by the Gordon Brown Government, continued by the Coalition Government and pursued with ever increasing enthusiasm by the Cameron/May and now Johnson governments.
But we should not use that as an excuse for inaction. No matter how much we get from national or local taxation or the provision of services we should be using the money in a cost-effective way. The breaking up of our services into competing silos is not only wasteful; in cash terms but is also wasteful in the way that people are looked after by the system. The bureaucracies have few joint objectives and compete against each for resources for their bit of the work stream. People have to find their way through our complex systems and often have to give the same information to staff from a range of agencies who then spend a lot of time collecting and collating it. People are driven from pillar to post within the system especially when they are in acute need of scarce resources.
This joining up all seems to be too hard for the Liverpool Labour Party who prefer to keep their privileged and well-paid positions in place. Notably last night several of them felt obliged to come out with the same Corbynite clap trap which ahs just cost them their third General Election defeat in a row.
In our manifesto for this year’s local elections we will be making a number of strong suggestions about public sector reform in Liverpool and linking up the spend and actions to the needs of the people and not the desires the politicians.
Watch out for it and then vote in a new Lib Dem administration that will give Liverpool the value for money that the taxpayers deserve.