Job and service cuts expected as Liverpool rules out council tax referendum
Liverpool City Council has ruled out holding a referendum on increasing council tax by up to 10% following public feedback, the city’s mayor has announced.
An online budget simulator launched by the council last November found that 57% of participants were against a rise in council tax above the government’s 4.99% limit, while 43% were for the rise.
The council had proposed a council tax rise of 5% plus a further 6% ring-fenced for social care as the ailing council faces the brutal task of making £90m of savings by 2020.
“When we launched the budget simulator I said there are only two places we can get the money to pay for services affected by the cuts – more money from the government or asking the people of Liverpool to pay more council tax,” Liverpool mayor Joe Anderson wrote in his New Year message to the Liverpool Express.
“I said I would listen to the feedback we got. I will therefore not be proposing to hold a referendum on any additional increase beyond the 4.99% limit set by government.”
Anderson said that while there was a clear message from participants for the council to prioritise vulnerable people, this would be extremely difficult due to the financial challenges that the council faces.
However, Anderson offered assurances that the council would try its hardest to fulfil the wishes of the city’s people.
“We cannot avoid the facts. There are going to be some closures of buildings, reductions in services and jobs lost as we try and close the gaps caused by having less funding,” Anderson said.
Cllr Tom Crone, leader of Liverpool City Council’s Green opposition group, called the consultation a “sham exercise”, lamenting that the failure of the “weak” consultation to secure support for a tax rise would devastate council services.
Meanwhile, Cllr Richard Kemp, leader of the council’s Liberal Democrat group, said that the public would never support the rise due to concern about the waste of existing council tax income.
Anderson also outlined plans to launch a ‘Liverpool lottery card’ scheme to help local causes, adding that more details of it would be revealed in the coming months.
The previous limit of 3.99% - the maximum percentage by which councils could raise council tax without holding a referendum - was raised to 4.99% due to the government’s decision to bring forward a 1% rise in the council tax precept for two years in last December’s local government finance settlement.
Work is continuing on the full details of Liverpool City Council’s budget, which will be made public for consultation early this year. The local authority is expected to set its budget for the rest of this Parliament in March 2017.
(Image c. Declan McAleese, Flickr)
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