Recognising the likelihood of increasing unmet demand from people suffering hardship, particularly from the “bedroom tax” and from the reduction in council tax support, the Citizens’ Support Scheme should be increased by £340k for 2015/16 and 2016/17.
That provision should be funded by a reduction, from 2015/16, in the budget for the basic allowances for the 90 councillors. The City Council should request the Boundary Commission to complete a review of the number of councillors with the expectation of a reduction from 90 to 60. If either the review is not completed by 1 April 2015 or the outcome of the review is not a reduction from 90 to 60 then there should be a reduction in councillors’ and/or mayor’s allowances equivalent to one third in the basic allowance for the 90.
Two smaller savings should also be used to increase the size of the Citizens’ Support Scheme.
Save at least £30,000 p.a. by removing the right of councillors to have free car parking and by removing the right of councillors to reclaim mileage or any travel expenses incurred within the city boundary. Councillors would, instead, absorb those travel costs from within their basic allowances.
Council gives up its policy of refusing to allow mobile phone antennae on council-owned buildings, except for school buildings. That policy, having been ineffective in preventing the spread of mobile telephony, serves no purpose other than sometimes to displace antennae onto less suitable locations. Potential income from rental of council-owned antennae sites is hard to estimate but may be of the order of £25,000 p.a.
There are two revenue lines allocated for direction by councillors and by the Mayor for optional, discretionary projects – Mayoral Neighbourhood Fund £1.24m and Leader’s Fund £1m. Those funds should be reduced to £404k and £202k, representing a reduction to approximately one third and one fifth of their budgets, respectively. Those levels should be maintained for 2015/16 and 2016/17.
The consequent saving of £1.634m should be used to stop any library closures in Liverpool.
We believe that any incoming government in May 2015 should restore and provide proper funding for local authorities and it is right to consider the use of reserves to save services now and to have those reserves replenished when a more compassionate government is in office. However there is doubt that any of the major parties are going to be willing to do that. We propose to use reserves in 2014/15 and to provide for their replenishment by future council tax increases in 2015/16 and 2016/17.
Since the budget for 2010/11 we have seen Council Tax rise once only by 1.75% while inflation has risen by 4.5%, 2.8% and 2.6%, using the conservative CPI measure of inflation. In real terms, then, Council Tax has fallen by 8.5%. That loss of spending power is equivalent to £10.16m p.a.
Any catch-up rise in Council Tax, above 1.99% would require a referendum. A catch-up of 8.5% would be hard to win in a referendum and a more modest rise of 5% would be more reasonable. We believe that a campaign to save services in social care, paid for by a 5% tax rise would be politically achievable, given the political will. A successful referendum would also show the government that the people of Liverpool stand together against the extent of the government’s cuts.
We propose that Council Tax should be raised by 5% for 2014/15 and by 1.99% for 2015/16 and 2016/17. The additional revenue raised, spread across the three years is approximately £4.5m p.a.
Part of the additional revenue in the first year would be applied to pay for the costs of the referendum, £80k. Part of that revenue in the first year should be ear-marked as reserves to top-up the Citizens’ Support Scheme – £ 1.843m.
Part of that revenue, £1.543 in 2015/16 and 2015/17, should be used to reverse budget option ASC&H 11: the adult day centre hubs should not be closed.
A further part of that revenue, £380k, should be used to improve the Council Tax Support Scheme so that, from 2015/16 onwards people within that scheme have to pay only 7.5% of their Council Tax bill rather than the current 8.5%, helping to insulate them from the effects of Council Tax increases.
The remainder of that revenue, approx £2.577m p.a., should be used to respond to requests to save other services by reversing or mitigating some of the other service cuts in the Proposed Budget Options.
If the referendum does not succeed, the impact on net revenue, spread across the three years, is neutral apart from the one-off costs of the referendum of £80k and re-billing £150k. Those costs would be met by a one off reduction in councillors’ and/or mayor’s allowances, after hearing a report from the Independent Panel on the apportionment of a reduction of £230k.