New Year message from Mayor Anderson

Where has the year gone? Once again, as we face a brand new year, I look back on what we have achieved in this city as well as looking forward to the year ahead.

It makes sense to start with our financial situation and the budget for the next few years. I’ve made no secret of the dire situation we find ourselves in here in Liverpool. The reality is, we are facing the toughest financial challenges we have ever faced in our history. We have had more than half of our funding snatched away from us, a 58% cut so far, with more to come. In 2010 we used to receive £524m from Government and today we receive only £268m. We now have to find another £90m of cuts over the next three years. Despite us shouting, despite us fighting, despite us making real, factual cases, as well as, emotional pleas, this government simply will not listen. They do not care about the devastating affects their actions are having on the most vulnerable in our City. And so, we have no choice but to get on with it, to find new ways of thinking, new ways of investing and making money to ensure we can provide for our people.

I know people are struggling, including children living in poverty and in some cases going hungry. This is not an exaggeration but it is a heart-breaking fact that, behind closed doors in our City, many families are struggling and desperately trying to cope.

I have always tried to be as open and transparent as possible when it comes to our financial situation here in Liverpool. I want people to know and understand what we are facing, I want you to be part of the decisions we make. We are here to represent you and it is important that you have your say. That is why we recently opened up the Budget Simulator, which saw more than 10,000 people try to balance our budget. Only around 16% of the total finished it – they all recognised that to balance the budget we need to make cuts.

The results however show that there is a clear message from you for us to prioritise vulnerable people, this is going to be extremely difficult as the largest amounts of money we now spend is spent on social care, but we will try our hardest to do so. 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.

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. In the simulator I asked would you support an increase in Council tax of an additional 6%, ring-fenced for Social Care. This was a genuine consultation, I get criticised if I ask and I get criticised if I don’t, but I wanted to know how people would respond. The response was clear with 57% saying no. I understand the reasons why the people who said no did, they themselves are struggling as are many others living in our city. I was also surprised and proud that so many, 43%, said yes! It’s a truly heart-warming reminder of how caring our City really is.

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.

Work is still continuing on the full detail of the budget which we will make public in the New Year for more consultation, but your message so far is clear. I will try to continue to protect as much as we can from cuts especially to those who need our support most. We now have to prioritise the priorities.

This year will go down in history for many reasons. Of course, there was the shock of Brexit, something we are still trying to get our heads around. We have President Elect Trump, Leicester winning the Premier League and Honey G releasing a Christmas single – a shocking year to say the least.

2016 will of course be remembered for the many people we have lost this year, not just musical and comedy geniuses such as David Bowie, Prince, George Michael and Victoria Wood, but also people who have meant a lot to this city.

I was particularly saddened to learn of the death of Herbert Howe, who was a fantastic ambassador of our City, I’m sure his legacy will live on for many years. We also lost two former council leaders, Sir Trevor Jones and Harry Rimmer, both served our City in difficult times.

This year will also be remembered by many in Liverpool as a year when we came together to stand against fascists, thugs and hate crime. It was quite shocking to see the rise in hateful and racist comments since the EU referendum but this year I witnessed some of the most vile displays I have ever seen. When the National Action Group visited our city – I say visited the city, they barely saw more than the inside of a lost luggage kiosk – the reaction of the people of Liverpool made our message loud and clear – racism is not welcome in our city. We are a city proud of diversity, proud of walking side by side with our neighbours of all nationalities and religions.

We will continue to make that point clear, racism and hate crime will not be tolerated in this City. We will do everything we can to ensure that Liverpool remains a safe, tolerant and friendly City.

For me though, 2016 will stand in history for one significant reason – the year we finally got truth and justice for the 96 victims of the Hillsborough disaster who were unlawfully killed on 15th April 1989. Many words have already been said about the verdicts and although I am in danger of repeating them all again, I want to take this opportunity to offer my sincere thanks and admiration to the families and campaigners who have fought against the odds, for 27 long and hard years, to uncover one of the biggest cover ups this country has ever witnessed. Those brave families and campaigners have set a precedent for generations to come – justice is possible, fight for what is right and never give up. I was delighted that we were able to give posthumous Freedom of the City, for the first time ever, to the 96 victims that were taken from us that day. They can now rest in peace, giving hope to us all.

Without a doubt there are some extremely tough times ahead but there is a lot to look forward to in 2017.

This city never has and never will know what it means to rest in its fight for justice. We will always dig in our heels and keep fighting for our future.
Recent news that Liverpool is the fastest growing economy in the country – including London! – shows us that together we are on the right track and we expect plenty of good news for the city in the year ahead:

Edge Lane
Anyone who has driven along it will see the current £100m redevelopment of Liverpool Shopping Park, which will be the UK’s biggest, new retail and leisure destination with over 41 new shops and attraction, creating more than 3,000 new jobs.

Project Jennifer
This transformation of Great Homer Street has been a long time coming, and was a priority of mine when I entered office to kickstart years of inaction. It will create more than 1000 new jobs in the North Liverpool Mayoral Development Zone, with a new supermarket, district centre, homes and much needed improved public spaces.

The Royal
Our breath-taking new Royal Hospital, will bring world class healthcare for the people of our city and will be the largest all single-patient room hospital in the UK. Just as impressive, however, is the contribution it will make to our economy. It’s the keystone in a new partnership in science and medical research, which includes the Knowledge Quarter, one of the most exciting new developments for Liverpool’s future.

The Knowledge Quarter
This is a £1bn flagship scheme to establish a world-leading medical and scientific research hub, creating 10,000 highly skilled jobs. It is a ten-year project, and has already had a huge success in attracting the Royal College of Physicians to open their northern headquarters here. This will have a huge impact on our economy, making us one of the great centres of the world for new innovations in health. It’s a sign that our ambition is to grow the city with well-paid, high-skilled jobs that will create more wealth in the city. There will also be new transport links to the area connecting the region to this exciting part of the City.

Housing
Housing remains a priority for us, 2016 alone saw over 1500 new homes either completed or started in Liverpool and we are expecting to do at least the same again in 2017. With the start of our Rent to Buy scheme, we will be announcing how people can become homeowners without a deposit. These initiatives are not only providing much needed houses, but jobs and a boost to council funds through council tax that will help sustain ourselves for the future and paying for much needed services.

Culture
Culture of course has been key in 2016, with Culture Liverpool events welcoming over 710,000 people to the city and generating more than £21 million for the local economy. The Liverpool Cruise Terminal welcomed 63 cruise liners, 114,676 passengers and crew to the city during the 2016 summer season, generating an economic impact of approx. £7m.

And if you haven’t seen the city already in the movies, “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them” is a great opportunity to spot Liverpool’s landmarks on screen, thanks to the huge success of the Liverpool Film Office. They have attracted 247 film and TV projects to Liverpool in 2016, producing 800 film days and generating approximately £11m of inward investment into the local economy.

Culture is will play just as important a role in 2017, with us eager to build on successes so far and continue to create magical memories for you all.
I also look forward to submitting our feasibility study for the Commonwealth Games 2026 in April, to Commonwealth Games England, UK Sport and DCMS. We are also bidding to hold the World Gymnastics games on behalf of the UK in 2022. We will keep you posted.

We will be accepting a design bid for the cruise terminal and starting the building, hopefully by September. I look forward to making an announcement with Everton Football Club on their decision on which one of the options for a new stadium they have chosen early in the new year.

There will also be some exciting new investment announcements to be made in the first quarter resulting in new jobs coming to the City.

In the more immediate future, I will be announcing in detail in early January how I intend to set up a Liverpool Lottery Card with the proceeds raised being channelled to support those most in need. Liverpool people are amongst the most generous in the country and I believe will support the initiative to help us cope with the growing numbers of people dependent on us. Never did I imagine that when this Government talked about the Big Society in 2010 that so many people would be impoverished by unrelenting austerity policies, causing us to do things like this, but we have to do everything we can to help.

Once again, I would like to offer my sincere thanks to all council staff, officers, cabinet members, councillors, volunteers, and partners who have worked harder than ever, with less resources, smaller budgets and more pressure than ever before, yet have continued to perform at the highest level. I am immensely proud of everything you do, I know it isn’t easy, in fact I know it has been incredibly hard at times, but everything you do is massively appreciated.

I wish everybody a very happy new year, I promise we will continue to do everything we can to ensure the best possible year for you all. I get excited every day I come to work – yes there are challenges but we can overcome them by seizing the opportunities that exist for what is the best City in the world.

Mayor Joe Anderson

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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.

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.

In tribute to Mandela…

In many ways you could argue that Nelson Mandela and his fight for freedom and social justice inspired me to enter into politics.

At the age of 17, in the very early days of my merchant navy career, I spent three months on the coast of South Africa stopping at Port Elizabeth, East London, Durban and Cape Town.

This was at the height of Apartheid and I was appalled by what I saw. Men – who by day would work alongside us – would spend their nights sleeping in the hatches and on the quayside, made homeless by virtue of the colour of their skin.

One memory that sticks with me particularly vividly was when I visited Table Mountain – there was even racial segregation at the top of that too.

Seeing the divisions and appalling injustice Apartheid created first hand was a huge wake up call for me. My time in South Africa inspired me to get myself an education and develop a strong sense of social justice.

Mandela’s fight inspired many thousands, including me, to enter politics. He can quite rightly take the credit for ending Apartheid and healing a nation – bringing reconciliation between black and white South Africans. He became a global force for tolerance, peace and social justice; touching the lives of millions of people along the way.

In 1994, Liverpool gave Mandela the freedom of the City. He should have been given the freedom of the World.

Freedom fighter, visionary, president, leader, Madiba; your legacy will never be forgotten.

Making our City sustainable

When we talk about sustainability, people usually think of the environment and the future of the planet and all things green. But to me, sustainability simply means the ability to keep going, to do what we do and that for me also means providing the services this City and its people need.

Everyone knows by now that our financial problems are as serious as they can be. Because of grant and funding cuts from this coalition government, we have some tough choices ahead. These are extremely challenging times we face. In simple terms if we do nothing we will be spending significantly more on services than we receive through council tax and other income. This scenario will be upon us within two years so it is vital we address the issue now.

Over the last three years the Government has cut £143 million from our budget and we have managed to protect services and do as much as possible to continue to deliver. We have reduced the workforce by 1600 and we have had to make some very unpalatable decisions. Over the next three years we have to find another £140 million and there is of course less to cut because of previous cuts and so the task is going to be even harder.

There is no question that these cuts are ideological in principal, as local government is systematically being hit and time after time Government comes back with more cuts and less support. In making that point I know most people in the City agree with me and also agree about the unfairness and unequal way these cuts have been applied meaning the poorest are hit the hardest.

Our City is at a critical juncture as we try to balance rising demand and less resources. The challenges are many, such as caring for a rapidly growing and ageing population and in addition because of the cuts more people are reliant on support and help from us.

There is for us also a need to ensure that our young people are equipped with the social, vocational and educational skills for theirs and our City’s future and the need to adapt and change, responding to developments in communications and technology.

The future is also about regeneration, growth, economic renewal, jobs and housing. All of these things are key components of a City that is sustainable. They are pieces of the jigsaw and each piece as important as the other.

Our response to these challenges will, I believe, lay a foundation for sustainability and transform the way we have done things in the past.

There is a debate taking place about public services and local government between all the main parties. It’s about financial devolution and new powers. It may mean Councils have more scope and flexibility to raise revenue and borrow. But that’s for tomorrow and we cannot wait for those closeted in the Westminster bubble and in ignorance and denial about the plight of Cities. They talk the talk about rebalancing the economy and growing Cities but in reality they do nothing – certainly not on the scale, or with the vision required.

That’s why it’s important that we look at new ways of doing things as a City. Like creating new opportunities and working with the private sector creating growth and jobs. The deals the City has done recently have done just that and there are more to come.

Those opposing this approach say it’s a gamble, but they would say that. The way we need to do things is both imaginative and entrepreneurial. It may be a brave thing to do for me to break the mould of a laissez faire attitude to growth of the past. However, it is not a gamble – I am neither reckless nor a gambler. In all cases there is an internal and external assessment of risk and only when we’re convinced it stacks up financially for you and for our City, will we invest.

The returns are threefold:

First it creates a new business and as a direct result we benefit because we will receive business rates.
Secondly, we benefit in a financial sense because of the repayments made back to us on the loan.
Thirdly, it creates jobs and in most cases there is a fourth benefit because it usually involves a derelict building being brought back in to use.

In all commercial dealings we undertake, it is simply to stimulate growth and benefit our City.

We cannot just be gripped by fear, because of the Government cuts or by those who simply want to make a political noise. If we don’t make choices and take decisions on where to go and what to do, we won’t go anywhere and just continue to do nothing. The 35th President of the USA J F Kennedy said: “Conformity is the jailer of freedom and the enemy of growth”. It is one of my favourite sayings, and so true.

The City Deal negotiated with Government and the Single Investment Pot, the Mayoral Development Zones and Enterprise Zones are helping us create growth and generate investment, so is our borrowing at beneficial rates and investing in development. We call it invest to earn and it works.

Doing nothing is not an option, sustainability has to be worked for. That’s what we are doing.

Food for thought

The Government would have us believe that everyone is paying a price, we’re all in it together for austerity and that those with the broadest shoulders will contribute the most.

They will also say that the job losses and the welfare cuts won’t be as bad as people like me claim and that the private sector will take up the slack and create the wealth and jobs needed to mitigate the impact of the ill thought out and politically motivated cuts on cities like Liverpool.

We would therefore, if Government’s predictions were true, expect to see more queues at our shops or restaurants because of this.

The reality is that the only queues forming are those of our food banks and those at the Magistrates Courts as people across the country battle every day to just survive.

Here in Liverpool there are three food banks feeding over 10,000 people between them. Alarming as that figure sounds, for me the bigger issue is that each number represents a real story – and that the numbers are increasing literally every week.

Tragic stories of children going hungry and people suffering from anxiety and depression even contemplating suicide as one Liverpool resident did just recently. This is not an exaggeration. This is happening in Liverpool – right now. People are now asking not just for food but assistance to help pay for gas and or electricity keys to pay for the fuel to cook it. This is not the 21st century Britain I expected to be part of.

Someone you walk past in the street today will be struggling to keep a roof over their head and food in their cupboards. Some children are going to school on empty stomachs, and some are not going to school at all because parents can’t afford to send them.

As a result of government cuts we are cutting a further £140 million from our budgets over the next three years, following on from £172 million we have just cut over the last three years.

We are spending less and employing less. As a result of this our local economy is £219 million lighter.

The effect of the welfare reforms, already put in place, takes a further £227 million out of our economy. People, who already face a daily struggle, will have less to spend in local shops and businesses.

The net effect of these twin blows is the equivalent to wiping out 5% of Liverpool’s total economic output (£9.1bn in 2011) or 72% of our manufacturing sector (£620m GVA) or cutting 52% of the value of our financial and insurance sector (worth £869m of GVA in 2010). That’s a loss of £1,032 per head in Liverpool while Authorities in the South remain relatively unscathed by comparison. This is the equivalent to 7,000 jobs lost or to put it another way two Jaguar Land Rover plants closing in our City – one after the other.

But this won’t make the national news. Local people won’t complain they will just hurt and, I am not expecting a government minister to promise with any conviction or credibility that something will be done any time soon.