Mayor Anderson isn’t bluffing over state of Council’s finances

All none-stauttory services in Liverpool may be stopped unless unless the Government assists the Council in dealing with the financial strains cased by the coronavirus pandemic

Last night I received a phone call from Mayor Anderson that I was pleased to get but horrified to listen to. The immediate cause of the phone and new information to me is that Council had received just £13 million from the Government in the second tranche of assistance to councils instead of the £20 million that we received in the first tranche. It is quite clear from the way that the money has been doled out that it is on a per head basis based on the population rather than a needs basis that recognised the extra pressures on Liverpool and other core cities.

After discussion with the Mayor, I agreed to add my weight and support to the efforts he is making to get the cash we need. Liverpool has responded to the Government saying in March, “money isn’t an issue”. I have had regular discussions with the Mayor and staff of the Council and have agreed with the spending that has been undertaken. Basically, the Council has acted to support the care and voluntary sectors in their work to keep pressure on the NHS as low as possible.

Of course, I believe that if we had run the Council for the past ten years we would have done some things differently and would have been in a better position to deal with the issues. However, no matter who had been running the Council it would have made little difference to the situation the Council is now in. Even if the Council were to cut all spending that is not statutory, I do not think we would now have enough cash to pay for statutory services like adult and Children’s care and getting the bins emptied.

To back up our case I written to our Lib Dem Leaders in local government, Lib Dem parliamentarians, Senior LGA staff and senior central government staff that I know from my national work. A copy of the one that I have sent to the Lib Dems is shown below but the others have been different intone but not direction.

Liverpool is not alone in this. The Local Government Association has estimated a £5 billion shortfall in council finances across England. Tis is caused not only by increased expenditure but by a cut in our income from fees and charges, Council Tax and Business rates. I would hope then that this Liverpool work will be replicated with similar and joint calls from all Councils in the Liverpool City Region and from all the English Core City Councils.

Liberal Democrats in Liverpool have agreed that now is not the time for politics or partisan rhetoric. We will work with people of all Parties and of none to try and keep the essential services of the Council going in these dreadful circumstances.

This is my letter to to Lib Dem Leaders in local government copied to senior LGA officials:

Subject: Liverpool needs help

Cllr Howard Sykes, Leader, LGA Lib Dems

Cllr Ruth Dombey, Deputy Leader LGA Lib Dems

Cllr Keith House, Resources Spokes, LGA Lib Dems

Dear Colleagues,

I am writing this note to you following a discussion about the finances of Liverpool City Council with Mayor Anderson. You will see I am copying him in to this. On Friday, I will be having a detailed meeting with him, our 151 Officer and the Chief Exec and had already received an alarming report on our Council’s finances which have now got even worse.

In the allocation of our share of the first £1.6 billion Liverpool received £20 million. Our share of the second tranche is just £13 million. It would appear that this money is now being distributed on a ‘per capita’ rather than on a ‘needs based’ approach. To date we are committed to an additional £78 million expenditure mostly on Adult Social Care stuff but a small amount on other consequences. Some of this expenditure has been contingency work for the other 5 LCR Boroughs but even if we were to get that back there is still a huge gap between what we need to do to deliver the support to the NHS that is needed with a core city and what we are being given.

We simply do not have a back pocket full of cash. Our budget for this year included in year cuts that will probably be now unachievable. Like the rest of you we will also lose rates, council tax and other income. Our 151 Officer is now looking seriously at the serving of a section114 notice. However, if she served it and stopped all none statutory work our costs on the increased statutory work in ASC would still be more than our income so there would be a financial and a service delivery fault.

I know that the LGA is trying to put increased pressure on the Government but I believe it now needs to do two things:

  1. Be much more strident in its tone in demanding more assistance from the Government; and
  2. Move into an area which I know is fraught with difficulties for it and talk about what fair funding really means in the allocation of scarce resources

I would be happy to give you an update on Friday’s meeting as indeed I am sure Joe would. If you want more information in the short term please let me know on 07885 626913

About richardkemp

Leader of the Liberal Democrats in Liverpool. Deputy Chair and Lib Dem Spokesperson on the LGA Community Wellbeing Board. Married to the lovely Cllr Erica Kemp CBE with three children and four grandchildren.
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