Further cuts to Merseyside Fire and Rescue Service

I am very concerned about the impact of drastic Government cuts on Merseyside’s Fire and Rescue Services.  Strong lobbying by Merseyside MPs and the Fire Authority prevented the cuts being even deeper.

The current Merseyside Grant cut for 2013/14 is 8.7% and will be cut by a further 7.5% in 2014/15.  Merseyside received the worst Grant settlement in the country for the last two years, this cut was twice the national average.

The Fire Authority has already had to make £9.2 million of savings in the last two years and will now have to make a further £10 million of savings over the next two years.

It is deplorable that the scale and depth of Government cuts mean that front line services will now be affected.  The Fire Authority has announced that the budget cuts will come from £7 million in back office and support services and £3 million from emergency response.  More than 140 jobs, 90 of these firefighter posts will be lost as a result.  All of the fire stations will be kept open but the number of fire engines will be reduced.

Our fire and rescue services play a vital role in our communities and it is appalling that Government cuts are having a substantial impact on front line services.

I have raised the issue of the unfair cuts on a number of occasions with the Government and met with representatives from the Merseyside Fire and Rescue Service.  I will continue to fight against further cuts to secure a fairer deal for Liverpool and Merseyside.

Four in ten in child poverty in Liverpool Riverside

The Campaign to End Child Poverty last week published a report which shows that 42% of children in Liverpool Riverside are living below the poverty line, the fourth highest level in the country.

The table shown here is a breakdown of the statistics for each ward in the Riverside constituency.

The report highlighted the struggle facing families in a city hit hard by Government cuts and it is reprehensible that more than 2 in 5 children live in poverty.

On the 23rd January 2013, I challenged the Prime Minister on this, asking:

The Government’s welfare Bill will plunge 200,000 extra children into poverty, and children in places such as Liverpool are already suffering. Yet the Government want to make the poor go away by redefining poverty. Does the Prime Minister really think he is going to get away with that?

He replied:

What I would say to the hon. Lady is that the introduction of universal credit is going to reduce the number of children living in relative-income poverty by around 250,000. Those are the figures.

On the issue of welfare, we face a clear choice. Given that in-work benefits have gone up by 20% over the last five years compared with just a 10% increase in wages, we believe that it is right that welfare benefits should not continue to go up ahead of wages. I note what Labour have done this week: great sound and fury, voting against the Bill and saying it is completely wrong, but completely refusing to reverse it. That is the complete policy vacuum that we face from the Labour party.

Liverpool is being hit disproportionately by Government cuts, with the City Council’s budget reduction amounting to £329 per person compared with an English average of £160. We face a toxic package of cuts – cuts to local services, council tax benefit, housing benefit and the bedroom tax. I will continue to press the Government on this issue and to speak up for the people of Liverpool.

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.

BIKERIGHT! – delivering eight new cycle stands to promote greener commuter travel

Kirkdale based cycle training organisation BikeRight! has unveiled a number of new cycle storage facilities across Everton and Kirkdale – funded as part of an ongoing drive to change the way in which local employees travel to and from work.

I am pictured at the recent Eldonian launch with Jo Somerset, Director of BikeRight!

BikeRight! has been working with local employers and institutions to offer staff a viable alternative to commuting by car – encouraging cycling or indeed walking.

Cycle stands are being installed at Benson Signs, DBH Business Centre, Everton Sports Centre, The Rotunda College and Liverpool Community College as well as Everton’s WECC, Shrewsbury House and Eldonian Village Hall.

The cycle stands have been installed as part of the successful Choose Freedom project, a Liverpool City Council project funded by the Department for Transport through the Local Sustainable Transport Fund. The project is being delivered by BikeRight!

BikeRight! is responsible for many innovative projects in Liverpool working with businesses and residents to encourage safe cycling to promote wellbeing and improved employment opportunities in Liverpool. Their Choose Freedom project in North Liverpool encourages residents of Everton and Kirkdale to get on their bikes and enjoy the freedom, savings, health benefits and increased job opportunities afforded by cycling and walking.

http://www.bikeright.co.uk/freedom

BikeRight!’s recent night-time ride short film – http://youtu.be/WcvD-6f5inQ

Proposed re-opening of Lark Lane Post Office

I am delighted that Post Office Ltd is proposing to re-open a branch in Lark Lane – at number 65. Formerly at number 77, the branch closed temporarily in 2009 when the premises were withdrawn from Post Office use.

I have made representations about a number of branches over the years, including Lark Lane, in serving the community.

Post Office Ltd have written to me to say that there is now a local public consultation, ending on March 7th, where the public are invited to comment on the suitability and accessibility of the proposed location and are asking whether there are other suggestions that could be considered for the new branch.

Submissions can be made to:

FREEPOST PO Consultation

or

consulatation@postoffice.co.uk

I received many representations from constituents when this branch closed in 2009 and I hope that the Post Office’s proposals will be welcomed, with a new branch situated on Lark Lane later on the year.

Hobs Exchange

I was delighted to officially open the new Liverpool office for Hobs Exchange on Friday.

The new facilities, which sees 8,500 sq ft of production space and offices at Glacier Buildings at Brunswick Dock is a result of rapid expansion.

Hobs is an independent reprographics company, with a network of 29 branches and over 300 employees across the UK and Ireland. They cater for clients in the NHS, construction, legal, financial, manufacturing, energy and utilities sectors.

Hobs has had a long connection with Liverpool, having launched in School Lane in 1969. As well as the Harrington Road business, the company also has Liverpool locations in Fleet Street and a retail reprographics services business in Castle Street.

Hobs is an example of a thriving and expanding business, investing in Liverpool, which will have a positive effect on the local economy. During my visit I was impressed by the enthusiasm of the members of staff, who know how important their role is in contributing towards a successful business.

I am pictured with CEO Kieran O’Brien, Roger Whelan of Hobs Exchange and Ben Blackwood MD.

Decision to close Princes Road and London Road Nat West branches

I was deeply disappointed to receive a response from RBS (Nat West) confirming closure of Princes Road and London Road branches. I made representations to RBS to say that the banks, in particular Princes Road, are an important asset to the community.

RBS stated in their response:

Dear Louise Ellman,

I am sorry for the delay in my response – I have been looking into whether the decision is final in both branches and I’m afraid to say the decisions will not be reversed.

We are liaising closely with local members of the community about the closures and also with customers.

We have arranged a meeting […] today to organise a meeting with representatives of the local community.

As well as writing to customers, providing literature about the alternatives and helping those who seek advice, we are also going to organise ‘Open Days’ in at least 2 branches so that customers affected by the closure can visit these local branches to see the Service Options and layout available.

As I said in my original e-mail we do not take these decisions lightly and we will do everything we can to mitigate the difficulties that arise for our customers.

I will go back to the bank and ask what action they are to take now for local customers.