The year 2013 really was a year of ups and downs for Liverpool and I would like to take a moment to reflect on what we’ve all been through.
We have had a year of tremendous challenges as City Council was once again faced with significant cuts to our funding from central Government.
I am very proud of how the city reacted to that challenge: My Cabinet, the administration and the people of our city worked together to overcome the worst financial settlement we had ever received.
Over each of the last three years we have had to make savings of £176 million, with the worst still to come. That is why I have taken the decision, knowing that we still have to make savings of £156 million, to set a budget in that will cover the next three years.
I believe this will give, as far as we can, certainty to the workforce, Trade Unions, partners and, most importantly, you the people we serve.
Throughout the last few years, we have aimed to make the cuts is as fair a way as possible and making this next round is going to be particularly hard, especially as it comes at a time when the most vulnerable people in our communities face even tougher times.
But I am committed to continuing to offer the support we can. That is why I have ensured the city has supporting Credit Unions and Food Banks with funding.
Understandably people are worried about what is going to happen to the services they rely on. I want to ensure the city is absolutely accountable to them, and so we will continue to provide information on the costs of services and be completely transparent and open about what funding we have.
There will be no hidden plans, no secret reports. The decisions we have to make will be difficult and will have far-reaching implications on the future of council services. Through Liverpool Express, and Twitter we have made available information on our income and our spending. I would urge you to look, digest and understand the financial predicament facing our city following year after year of Government funding cuts.
All our discussions and decisions will be open and transparent; we have absolutely nothing to hide.
But as we make decisions I need you to understand that some of the things we will have to do will upset communities, groups, neighbourhoods and individuals who will feel let down and angry. I want to assure you that every decision will be carefully looked at before action is taken. Every action taken will be solely in the interests of the whole city and in the fairest possible way.
I serve as Mayor to you the people, who rely on the council’s services; but I am first and foremost a proud member of this community and this city. Liverpool currently needs steering through difficult times and I promise I will lead with the same passion and commitment through tough times as I will through the good. And I can ensure you; there will be a lot of good.
The year 2014 will also mark the 25th Anniversary of the Hillsborough disaster. Over years we have been reminded how we achieve great things when we all stand together. This year I am sure that Anfield will be packed once again, as our city remembers the victims and families, tinged with sadness at the loss of John Glover and Anne Williams. There is still some way to go before justice is done but we will support each other until then and beyond.
While I have earlier highlighted the financial problems we face, there is much for us to be excited about in the coming year. In fact, Liverpool is about to embark on one of the most exciting periods in its history. The opportunities we have are absolutely spectacular. Over the last couple of years we have shown that we are an outward looking, forward thinking and massively ambitious city. We are an innovative city and we are a creative city.
I am pleased that we are now a city which has a council that takes business seriously. Our businesses, existing and new, will drive our local economy; create growth, opportunities and jobs for our residents. Finally, after years of frustration with the City Council, Liverpool businesses tell me they finally feel they have a council they can work with.
I’ve worked hard to provide a new and refreshing approach to business and to make sure we really are a can-do council, which is working hand-in-hand with businesses to deliver the growth we desperately need.
We have led the way in engaging Liverpool with the national and international business world through our London Embassy and the “It’s Liverpool” campaign. I want to challenge the council to keep thinking big and bold in the years to come.
People can see a city which hasn’t spent the last year feeling sorry for itself, but has confidently and aggressively promoted itself as a place to come and invest. We are seeing the fruit of that approach today as Liverpool prepares itself to welcome the International Festival of Business in June. This is a major coup for us and will see over 200,000 people, including leading entrepreneurs from around the world, arrive in Liverpool for six weeks. There will be plenty of events during the IFB and
I am particularly looking forward to the Mayor conference which will consist of over 150 Mayors from cities all over the world all coming together in Liverpool. This is another great opportunity for us to showcase itself to the world.
I promise you that the events we have planned for this year will surpass anything we have ever done before and will put Liverpool in the spotlight once again. There will be millions of people who will visit during 2014 and we will continue to guarantee them a warm welcome.
Of course the year to come will be challenging – of that I have no doubt – but I am determined to rise to that challenge as we have done in previous years. As we move from a city in recession towards a city which is growing again, Liverpool needs to move up a gear and grab some of the huge opportunities which lie before it. We need to become more self-reliant and do things differently if we are to rightly claim to be a global City.
Although some developments may have been slower than we hoped due to the recession, we are better placed than most cities, with nearly £1 billion being spent on construction projects in 2014.
Liverpool is a hugely ambitious city and we have huge opportunities ahead of us. My promise to you while I am Mayor is that the city will always be a ‘can do’ City. We have made a very good start and have achieved so much already but it’s barely a drop in the ocean compared to what we want to achieve in the future.
I am honoured and privileged to be your Mayor and lead our city. I am excited every day to come to work because, despite the challenges, there is no greater privilege than to lead this great city and I look forward to working to deliver our vision and ambitions.
Happy New Year.