Local Government Finance – the effect on Liverpool

On Wednesday (Feb 13th), I participated in a Commons debate regarding Local Government Finance.

As I have stated previously, while Liverpool is the most deprived city in the country, it is being hit the hardest by this Tory/Lib Dem government’s cuts. In turn the Council faces a massive task in trying to find savings. It will be forced to make cuts.

I asked the Minister:

The Minister has been involved in a lot of discussions with various local authority representatives. Is he willing to reopen discussions with Liverpool city council? It covers the most deprived council area in the country, yet it has suffered the greatest cuts. How can that be fair?

Minister Brandon Lewis replied:

Actually, Liverpool has had a reduction of minus 1.3, so it is no different from anywhere else. However, I will happily meet people from Liverpool council, just as I will those from any other authority and any hon. Member who wishes to see me.

Later I went on to remark:

Having listened to what Government Ministers have said this afternoon I really think that they are living in a world of fantasy and make-believe.

For Liverpool, and for similar places, this is a harsh settlement. It is part of the Government’s onslaught on local services and local government. Beyond that, it is part of a toxic package of Government cuts to local services, housing benefit, council tax benefit and welfare, together with the introduction of the bedroom tax. The combined effect of all these measures is to inflict severe hardship on local communities and, in particular, on children.

When my hon. Friend Stephen Twigg raised this issue a couple of months ago and received the Government’s response, it became very clear that they had not paid any attention whatsoever to the cumulative impact of these savage cuts. That is shameful. The Government seem to be ploughing ahead with their cuts to deprived areas such as Liverpool as though they do not have a care in the world. That says more about their attitude, ideology and philosophy than it does about their competence.

Let us look at some facts. According to the indices of deprivation, Liverpool is the most deprived local authority in the country. Next year, it will be forced to cut £32 million from its local government budget, on top of the £141 million it has cut over the past two years, and there is more to come. Indeed, over a four-year period it is being asked to cut more than 50% of its controllable budget. It has been shown that for every individual in Liverpool the cumulative effect of four years of cuts is a cut in spending of £329.54 per head. So Liverpool is not only No. 1 in terms of deprivation but right at the top of the list for the amount of spending cuts per head that this Government are inflicting through local government cuts alone.

Liverpool city council is a very responsible council, and it has done what it can to protect local people against Government cuts. One of the first things it did when faced with the challenge of these cuts was to review how the whole council operated. It has slashed £30 million from its administration and cut out a half of its senior management. It has also done what it can to protect services. I will give one indication of what it has achieved over the past two years. Last year, the Sure Start centres were under great threat because their budgets had had to be reduced by over 50% due to the cuts in funding, but as a result of changing how those centres operated, in some instances affecting services adversely, they have remained open.

Now, we in Liverpool face the Government demanding even more cuts of the city. The council is continuing to review how it delivers its services, and it is looking for new ways of providing funding, but it will not be possible to protect public services. It is also an entrepreneurial council, engaging with business to bring investment into Liverpool. At the same time as fighting against these unwarranted and unjust cuts to local services and local people, it is holding its hand out to businesses to try to support investment and maintain jobs and employment in the city.

It is a simple fact that people in the most deprived area of the country, where 22% of the 100 very poorest local areas are found—the super output areas—require public services. Indeed, a decent society requires public services. The Government’s actions in relation to local government cuts and cuts to other services in Liverpool are unwarranted and unjust, and I call on the Minister to think again.