Liverpool City Council has lost 58 per cent of its funding through severe government cuts – that’s £330 million cut from the budget already and another £90 million to come.
The cuts have struck at a time of rising demand and leave the council with stark choices.
It has launched a budget simulator to show residents the impact of the cuts and to involve everyone in decisions about what needs to be done next.
The fact is that if Liverpool had been hit by the average cuts imposed by first the Coalition Tory-Liberal Democrat government and now the Tory government, the city would have £82.4 million more in its budget.
The severity of the sustained cuts is shocking. In 2011-12, the government forced £91.4 million of cuts on the council, in 2012-13 another £50 million, in 2013-14 £32 million more, in 2014-15 £55 million, in 2015-16 £48.6 million and in 2016-17 £53.2 million.
That is a total of £330 million that the council has had axed from its budget, but it has meant cutting spending on important community services. Now the government is demanding another £90 million of cuts over the next three years.
The council faces having to cut more valuable services that residents rely on every day, or raise more money to help pay for them.
There are more children in council care than ever before – up 18 per cent since 2010. By 2019, there will be 4,000 more children in local schools. The number of over-65s will rise 30 per cent by 2026, and there has been a 26 per cent increase in the number of people at risk of homelessness seeking help.
Behind every number, there is a person in real need of help and support. The council has to consider every option to protect people from these savage government cuts, including asking people to pay a little more.
However, only 11p in every £1 of the city’s budget comes from council tax – far less than nearly every other council in the country. It means any increase brings in a relatively small amount. For instance, a 1 per cent cut in government funding costs the council £3 million, while a 1 per cent rise in council tax brings in £1.4 million.
The government allows councils to raise council tax by a maximum of 3.99 per cent, unless people vote for a higher rise in a referendum. A rise of 3.99 per cent in 2017/18 would bring in around £5.7 million in additional income. Yet, the council has to find £41 million of savings over the next year alone.
That is why the council is asking people now if they would be willing to pay up to 10 per cent more and have the money protected to be used for adult and children’s services. That can only be done if people vote in favour in a referendum.
The budget simulator allows people to see the impact of reducing spending across council services.
People can also leave their comments and ideas about how to bridge the budget gap to help the council understand what is important to residents when it makes its budget proposals later this year.
The simulator also asks if people would be willing to pay more council tax to protect services for vulnerable children and adults.
These are hugely difficult questions and there are no easy options, but it is vital that people are involved in the decisions that have to be taken.
To use the budget simulator and let the council know what you think should be done, please click here or visit: www.liverpool.gov.uk/budget
The budget simulator will be open until Friday December 16.