As the local authority reels from the impact of covid-19 on its financial outlook, its draft statement of accounts has revealed that the 19th century chandeliers that hang from the ceiling where members debate issues such as the cost of living in Liverpool Town Hall are worth around £1.3m. In addition, in the council’s possession is a £7.5m book by John James Audubon first published between 1827 and 1838, called The Birds of America.
The book contains illustrations of a wide variety of birds of the United States and is one of the council’s £35m worth of heritage assets. Several of the heritage assets managed by the city council are on long term loan from National Museums Liverpool.
The draft statement of accounts for the local authority for 2021/22 said it estimated losses of almost £10m with additional coronavirus costs totalling £76m. Not all of these have been compensated for by UK Government support grants.
Almost £90m will need to be found in savings by Liverpool Council by 2026 according to its own estimates. The report said during 2020/21, additional expenditure related to covid-19 reached £89m while income was £25m lower than anticipated.
The accounts statement, presented by Richard Arnold, chief accountant, detailed how Liverpool Council has only limited resources to spend on maintaining heritage assets and therefore conservation and restoration of assets is undertaken as and when required and subject to available funding. Mr Arnold said as of March this year, the council’s property, plant and equipment asset balance, which includes civic buildings such as the Cunard Building, stood at around £2bn.
Questioned by Cllr Ruth Bennett on losses of assets, Maria Wilcox, chief finance manager, said in situations whereby schools like Fazakerley High School become academies, these are simply taken off the books are not regarded as a loss as they no longer fall within the local authority’s purview. Chief accountant Mr Arnold, holding up a copy of the draft statement, admitted “nobody reads” the accounts and conceded there is a wider debate around why that is.
He suggested they may be too long and complex and an annual report may be the way forward for the council to present the work it has done.