No room for rejoicing in Council’s budget

The grisly spectre of Joe Anderson still hangs over Liverpool more than 2 years after he left the Cunard. Much of our budget problems for next year have been caused by things that he did which he should not have done or things that he should have done which he did not do.

The fact that the Government gave us £19 million more than we originally anticipated is not, in itself, a cause for rejoicing. What we all need to consider is, “what would the situation have been if the council had been run properly?”

The answer is, “far better off than we are now”. Estimates are that Labour have lost, failed to collect, or wasted more than £165 million. The legacy of that continues to this day. The legacy means that we are still having to make just short of £49 million of cuts.

In fact, we will never know the true costs to the people of Liverpool of a wasted 13 years. Years when fancy pants schemes such as the failed Foundations Housing Company were the apple of Joe Anderson’s eye while basic services such as social care for young people and adults were ignored.

Our failure to look at important service priorities in social care which deal with the most deprived and worrying part of our population stands out for continued criticism and review. The figures contained in this budget show that improvements could and should have been made years ago. This has meant a lost of cash to the council and the loss of a good lifestyle for thousand of people of all ages and their families.

In this budget we have £902,000 for the Lime Street/Strand overspend; £5 million or more having to be put back into reserves for the electricity bill debacle; £2 million for the five Commissioners and improvement programme; and at least £1.2 million for extra spending on interim staff, consultants and advisers.

There are three areas that stand out as being a major cause of our problems which are only now being grappled with:

  1. Collection rate for council tax. This was increased to 93% this year and 94% for next year which is still well below the average for English Councils of 97%. The Council for a decade adopted a low threshold of collection for those who could pay their tax but would not do so.
  • Adult Social Care which will be losing £11 million but will be transformed into a more modern and joined up service inside the Council, between the Council and private care providers and the NHS.  the Council is well behind the curve on this vital realignment of social care services and is at least a decade behind the transformation work of the best councils.
  • Children’s Social Care which will be losing £18.5 million but with much more attention on early intervention which is better, in most cases, for the child, their family and will save the Council a lot of money. Some of these children will bear the scars of our council’s incompetence through the whole of their lives.

One interesting fact has been hidden away in that we will literally be selling the Council’s silver! Proposal NO9 suggests that an inventory is taken of all gifts given to the council that are more than 10 years old and sell them to raise £20,000 a year for 2 years.

The consultation with the Public showed that 34% of responders said that the main priority of the Council should be to create a well-run Council. Liberal Democrats agree with them. If this Council had been run properly for the past 13 years our services would be in far better shape and there would be far more of them.

There can be no doubt after seeing the Caller Report and the Commissioner’s updates that the basic systems within the Council were hopeless corrupted. That has cost us tens of millions of pounds. Only time and the conclusion of Operation Aloft will tell us if the bureaucratic corruption was accompanied by a legal corruption by those arrested, but not charged, or others.


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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