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Liverpool needs to 'act now' over budget crisis warns Mayor

Liverpool “can’t afford to wait” for government announcements on funding as the city mayor warned it needed to “act now” to fill a major funding gap.

City officials warned last week how efficiencies would have to be made as the council attempts to plug a £73m blackhole in its finances. Liverpool Council published its proposals to put itself on a stable financial footing last week, with options including a potential hike in council tax.

Increasing fees and charges as well as a review of its libraries and fitness centres are also being considered. Reductions are expected to be made to the city’s culture budget while the amount spent on welfare support schemes could also be chopped.

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The spending cuts facing Liverpool Council take it past half a billion pounds lost in funding since 2010. This year’s financial shortfall is almost double the £37m the local authority faced last year which led to the introduction of the controversial £40 green bin charge.

The cabinet met in public for the first time since the budget proposals were announced, with Mayor Anderson saying time was of the essence for the council. She said: “We’re in a really difficult position with the budget gap of £73m.”

“She added that the council cannot wait for government announcement on funding settlements as it needs to “act now” and engage with residents over possible outcomes. Cllr Harry Doyle said the leaders faced a difficult challenge as they look to balance the books, describing the city’s culture offer as its “golden goose”.

Cllr Doyle said the financial position of having to find £73m was “unfathomable” and the local authority had “done our best to protect frontline services over the years.” The cabinet member also said that despite changes being considered in the council’s festive output, including lighting across the city, they were “not cancelling Christmas.”

Cllr Liam Robinson, interim neighbourhoods boss, said his portfolio was the “most frontline of all frontline services” and the one by which residents gauge how the council is performing across the city. He described the premiership of Liz Truss as causing “economic vandalism” and said there had been no respite for local government from her successor Rishi Sunak.

He applauded the efforts of officers to try and minimise cuts the city faces but admitted it had been “very, very difficult to work through.” Cllr Sarah Doyle, cabinet member for development and economy, said it was important the council look at all forms of income generation and under her portfolio, increased fees for planning applications and debt collection measures were being considered among others.

Her colleague, Cllr Frazer Lake called on the government to “stop applying a sticking plaster to a gaping wound” as while the authority and those like it have faced cuts to funding, demands for social care have continued to rise. Deputy mayor Cllr Jane Corbett described the financial situation as an “impossible position” for the council to face.

The executive team also signed off on a public consultation on a proposed reduction in council tax support for households across Liverpool in a bid to raise millions of pounds.

Since 2013, Liverpool Council has held the responsibility for providing assistance to households for council tax payments. Currently, residents can claim up to 91.5% of their rates in Liverpool. A consultation is to be launched by the local authority to reduce this rate to 80%, in line with other councils in the Liverpool City Region and raise around £3m.

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