Difficult choices over libraries

A few months ago, as part of the budget process, it was announced that up to 11 libraries could potentially face closure in this city. It was a decision that was certainly not made lightly and something I know will have upset many, myself included. That is why for a couple of months now, I, as well as my cabinet, councillors and staff have been working tirelessly to look at alternative methods to try and bring that number down as much as possible.

However, I feel that I have to address those who are campaigning to save the City from any library closures and remind them of the fact that if we do not reduce the funding to libraries, and in turn keep them all open, then we will have to take that funding from somewhere else.

The reality is, by closing a number of libraries, we are simply asking that this service, like all others, take their fair share of the cuts that we have to face. What many are forgetting is that we will still be spending £7.5 million per year on our excellent library service, including the £2 million cost of PFI funds for Central Library, and we will ensure that almost everyone in Liverpool will still live within 2 miles of a library.

The closures to libraries, as upsetting as they may be, cannot come as a surprise. I have publicly warned people for over two years that closures would be inevitable as a result of the cuts forced upon us by Central Government. And I remind you now that not only do we face two more years of cuts, there will be more to follow.

This is not me making excuses. I do not and will not give any false information on what our financial situation is and I am not going to hide any information from you. Our financial situation is no secret. I always have been and always will be completely transparent. I will tell you straight what we need and have to do.

To be clear, in 2010 we received £514m from Government funds. In 2017 we will receive £264m. To put that real terms – we are facing a 58% cut of Government funds. We simply cannot be expected to do the same job, deliver the same results with more than half of our money taken away from us. We’ve already lost 2000 jobs and had many services axed or reduced.

Take Adult Social Care for example – when I took over as leader of the council in 2010, we were spending £224 million a year on Adult Social Care. Due to government cuts we had to significantly reduce that figure down to £174m a year. We are now being forced to reduce that by a further £38 million to £136 by 2016. That is a devastating cut which will leave us with no other choice but to reduce the number of Care Packages for all vulnerable adults, including the elderly and disabled residents in our City, from
13,000 to 9,000. And there are still more cuts to be made to this service.

Other important service areas will suffer too. We will have to close at least 12 Children’s Centres. There will be more job losses and cuts to all service areas, which we can’t avoid, as we respond to the devastating 58% funding cut imposed by this Government. I have said that we are now in a position that we have to prioritise our priorities and I see elderly care and children’s centres more important than keeping all of our libraries.

Then there are the people who say “we should use our reserves” or “the council shouldn’t buy Cunard”. Allow me to put this argument to bed: We paid £10million for the Cunard building. With taxes, stamp duty and refurbishment, the final cost will be around £14.8 million. Although we will be able to claim back some of the taxes we have paid. This money was from Council reserves, so there is no borrowing or interest to pay. We have invested in bringing a new fibre connection to the building and working space for the 800 staff that will be relocated there.  This will save us £1.3million per year and earn us an additional £800,000 from rents for the other floors in the building, so we will have paid for this building in seven years. The rental income means we have more money to spend on services and it is this approach to help our funding gap that will help us now and in the future.

People ask, why can’t you spend that money on libraries or other services?  In simple terms, it is not allowed – Government restrictions prevent us from spending capital funds to pay revenue, i.e running costs. Even if they did allow us to use that money to make a one off payment to a service, it would only be papering over the cracks as we would then have to find more money the following year and so on.

So let me make it clear, despite the challenges we face, we will continue to do our best to protect those most vulnerable and those most in need. This means making tough but fair decisions. It will also mean we do more investments like Cunard to make the council more cost-effective and is investing your money to earn more money for you and the services we need.

So I hope you can see that giving the libraries special treatment and exempting them from cuts will mean more savings need to come from elsewhere – such as adult social care.

I, nor any Councillor, want to see cuts to any service – whether it’s Adult Social Care, libraries or Children’s Centres. Nor do we want to make any more redundancies. But we have to face the reality of the situation we are in. There are only two options – one is to deal with the cuts in the fairest way we can, or secondly to set an illegal budget which some campaigners are calling for. The second option – setting an illegal budget – will categorically not happen with me leading the City.

Therefore we have deal with the cuts in a fair, honest and transparent way.

Of course we will continue to explore with others how we can save as many of our libraries as we can, I am confident that we can reduce the number we needed to close from eleven, to six or seven as a result of working with partners, volunteers and residents.

Every single day it saddens me as a proud Liverpudlian, resident, Mayor, father and grandfather that our City is under a sustained and immoral financial attack. And it saddens me that so many from our own city want to condemn the decisions we are making, before trying to understand why we are having to make them.

As I said, I will continue to be as open and straight with you all as possible. I will continue to fight for this city and, despite the best efforts of others, I will continue to do what is best for the future of Liverpool.

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A vote for change

One thing that’s clear about the Scottish referendum results is that everyone who voted (yes or no) has voted for change.

The vote, and the campaign that led up to it, has sent a great signal that people are sick and tired of a Westminster system which has led to governments, both past and present, creating one of the most centralised countries in the world.  As a result, we must change the way we talk about politics in this country.  I have been campaigning against the Barnett Formula since I became leader of Liverpool four years ago and saw for myself the critical unfairness in the funding system for local government.

Kensington in Liverpool is very, very, different to Kensington in London, but not only does Government want to treat them the same, it doesn’t give local authorities the money or powers to help us close the gap.

I hope this result bursts the “Westminster Bubble” and all political parties understand the need to build a new relationship between people in our nations, regions and cities and the institutions that provide services on their behalf, with a fair system for the future.

New Mayoral Leads

At next week’s Council AGM I will be proposing some additional Mayoral Leads to work with me and the Cabinet to create a new vibrant city.

Some will be existing Mayoral Leads whose successful work should continue and others will be new or replacements for those which have reached the end of their projects.

There are three in particular I am excited about:

Cllr Dan Hughes is to be Mayoral Lead for Youth and Citizen Engagement. Dan will use his expertise in the media and social media to engage people with the little actions which can have a big impact on our city. For example, developing a sense of civic pride in our city and reducing levels of littering.

Cllr Tim Beaumont is to be Mayoral Lead for City Wellbeing. Tim will shape activities and bring partners together to encourage people to change the way they live. Working alongside Roz Gladden as Cabinet Member for Adult Social Care & Health, Tim will be leading on public health campaigns such as reducing alcohol consumption and obesity.

Cllr Tim Moore is to be Mayoral Lead for Organised Sports. Tim, as an active member of a sports club himself, will bring together the grassroots sporting communities of Liverpool to identify growth and development opportunities, encouraging more people to take part. Liverpool’s sporting heritage is second to none and it is a result of thousands of people coming together once a week to play a sport of their choice.

Together, they will create activity and campaigns to encourage Liverpool citizens to take greater pride in our city, help them tackle health and wellbeing issues and be more active in the, already vibrant, grassroots sporting communities we have.

Another new position is Mayoral Lead for Energy and Smart City, Cllr Jim Noakes, who will lead on encouraging investment in green energy developing a networked city. Jim will lead on other innovations to make our city an exciting place for next-generation businesses to invest and locate in Liverpool.

Mayoral Leads are councillors who I have asked to focus on smaller, targeted areas which will help have a transformative impact on our city. Together these new Mayoral Leads, alongside the work of others, are having a profound impact on the way we work in Liverpool City Council and our relationships with groups within the city.

My team for Liverpool, including Cabinet Members and Mayoral Leads, has an exciting agenda to take Liverpool forward, encouraging people to get involved and engage to build a fairer, growing, economy and a healthy city we can be proud of.

 

New Cabinet positions

Today I am confirming the appointment of two new members of my Cabinet designed to make Liverpool a more successful and fairer city.

There has been one extremely important theme during my time as Mayor, which is that we will not leave the most vulnerable behind. Central Government doesn’t care to listen to us, and has imposed the most unfair budget cuts on the council – but still we have been able to feed 9,000 children during the summer holidays last year; fight the bedroom tax and get people refunds; and raise thousands and thousands of pounds for the city’s foodbanks. Much of that work was as a result of the Fairness Commission and carried out by a taskforce led by Cllr Frank Hont. I have great delight in now confirming Cllr Hont is to become Cabinet Member for Social Inclusion, Fairness and Equalities. His strong track record as a trade union official representing and championing workers in the north west and campaigning on equalities issues and for greater social inclusion make him perfect to lead our work on making Liverpool a fairer city and standing up for those who need our help the most.

One of my Mayoral Priorities was to make our city one of the world’s best cities for business to invest, grow and develop in. Cllr Gary Millar’s experience in running a business means he understands first-hand the needs of SMEs and what they need from a city to help them be a success. As Cabinet Member for Business, Enterprise and Investment, Cllr Millar will build on the excellent work of other members of the cabinet in creating a city that is entrepreneurial and inviting to investors, with a population learning new skills and ready to meet the challenges of our future. I have asked Gary to focus on building support for businesses in Liverpool, including start-ups, encouraging greater business investment and relocation to the city, and developing supply chains to feed our already successful businesses with local enterprise. Liverpool is already the fastest growing economy outside London, and created over 14,000 jobs since I took control.

I am confident Liverpool’s best days are still ahead for us. With these appointments, Liverpool can be confident the best people are focused on bringing more success and equality to the city.

Budget

We are about to face one of the toughest weeks in the history of Liverpool City Council – a week that no one has been looking forward to.

Tomorrow will see me pass a budget which will include the most devastating cuts Liverpool has ever had to face. It is an extremely difficult and sensitive time for the people of this city and I completely understand their anger and upset.

As a city we are facing its most difficult period in our long history. £156m of cuts, on top of the £176m cuts that we’ve already suffered means that in total Liverpool is seeing a 58% reduction in government grants.

I did not become Mayor to have to implement such devastating cuts and believe me when I say, I get absolutely no pleasure from this process at all.

I did however become Mayor to lead this city and to act on behalf of its people. I became Mayor to make the hard decisions, the right decisions at the right time and to take this city forward – and that is what I am going to do.

From the moment the cuts were announced, I have tried to make my voice heard. I have made my opinion known and I have appealed to the government to come to see us and to fairly assess us. Despite my best efforts, the government simply won’t listen. It is now clear that we are in this on our own. We have been dealt our cards and it is up to us to arrange them in whatever way we can.

It is up to me as Mayor and all of the city’s councillors, regardless of political affiliation, to work together in order to get us through what is going to be a very challenging time.

But let me be absolutely clear – those challenges will be overcome.

If we grasp opportunities and begin to think differently, breaking down old ways of thinking and becoming more entrepreneurial, then we will put ourselves in the driving seat and we will be the creators of our own destiny.

There is one thing that this government cannot ignore and that is the fact that Liverpool today is a thriving City. Liverpool is a confident and exciting place to be, a place buzzing with about its future.

We are a city that is building. We are a city that is investing. We are a city that is putting its bad days behind and moving forward in a way that only we can do. Liverpool is well and truly a city on the up and we are standing up for ourselves, despite what the government throw at us.

I am incredibly proud to be Mayor of Liverpool and I will continue to do everything I can for the city and its people.

There is no doubt in my mind that the best days lay ahead. These cuts will not knock us down. Liverpool will continue to grow and continue to be the envy of the world.

No other city has what we have. Together we stand side by side and together we will move forward to regain our place as the best city in the world.

Why justice can’t be rushed

This week I spent 2 hours with the Deputy Chair of the Independent Police Complaints Commission together with her team at Warrington Headquarters. Under Rachel Cerfontyne’s leadership, the IPCC’s independent investigation is focused on the aftermath of the Hillsborough disaster, specifically the actions of the police after the event and the cover up to divert the blame away from the authorities onto innocent fans. A second investigation, led by former Durham Chief Constable Jon Stoddart, Operation Resolve, is looking into the causes of the disaster. The IPCC has a role in overseeing this investigation where it applies to police actions.

I have a clear view on the IPCC investigations. They can’t be rushed. But the calls for swift justice are fully understandable. Families and survivors have faced 25 years of injustice at the hands of certain deeply mistrusted public authorities. Their lives have been torn apart and destroyed. The sad passing of Anne Williams and John Glover reinforce the calls for urgency.

But it is clear to me that in the greater fight for justice, and for the sake of a civil and democratic society where crimes don’t go unpunished, the importance of getting this right is paramount. Nothing must be left to chance in the thoroughness and procedural veracity of these investigations.

The depth of the IPCC investigation I witnessed at Warrington demonstrated to me that they are meeting these tests. Much of the archive and analysis work, together with the sheer scale of documentation and paperwork being reviewed is laboriously painstaking. The precision of the operation is exemplary. It gave me confidence that they will not fall foul of legal technicalities that could hinder the long-belated delivery of justice.

They have so far identified 242 police officers whose statements were changed after the disaster; that is 78 more than was revealed in the Independent Hillsborough Panel’s report. There is indignation that a small number of officers have refused to be interviewed (13 in total). I too share that indignation.

But I welcome that the weight of evidence is swelling. An overwhelming case for the prosecution is being built against those who were trusted with the safety of innocent people, but failed them and then subjected victims’ families to a 25 year ordeal, pointing the finger of blame at the deceased. A truly heinous crime.

The witness appeal is another crucial part of their investigation. Obtaining statements from new witnesses, survivors whose story has lived with them silently since 1989. A painstaking, meticulous process which must be treated with sensitivity and care. But further building the case and increasing the weight of evidence against those responsible.

So far more than 1600 people have responded to the appeal which remains live and I would urge anyone who feels they have relevant information to contact the IPCC via their website www.ipcc.gov.uk/hillsborough-witness-appeal or telephone 0300 200 0003.

I want to pass on my thanks and appreciation to the IPCC team. The thoroughness of its work is the key to justice. These investigations represent by far the best chance of achieving that outcome.

For the sake of the 96, and to uphold the values of a civil society, this is why they can’t be rushed.

Joe Anderson
Mayor of Liverpool

My message for 2014

 

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.