Council tax in Liverpool to increase by almost 5% after fiery council meeting

Members of the council signed off on its annual financial plans that will save £49m.
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Council tax in Liverpool will rise by almost 5% after a confrontational meeting of city councillors.

Members of the council last night (March 1) signed off on its annual financial plans that will save £49m rather than the eye-watering £73m that had initially been feared.

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Liverpool Council published a set of money saving proposals in November last year that included a number of welfare-related cuts including reduction or removal of the benefits maximisation team; reduction of the council tax support scheme; reducing the number of One Stop Shops and removal of council tax relief for foster carers.

As a result of a better than expected government settlement before Christmas, those options were curtailed. However, two cuts will still go ahead as part of the budget proposals. Savings of £1.1m will go ahead through a reduction of the Liverpool Citizens Support Scheme (LCSS). Rather than provide its own funding, the local authority will seek to utilise the government’s Household Support Fund to mitigate the loss for 2023/24.

The council will also seek to introduce a repair or replace scheme for domestic appliances. Currently, the city spends around £400,000 providing replacement appliances to residents who either do not have a particular appliance or where an appliance is broken.

Liverpool Council will also seek to use the government funding to cover the additional removal of the £1m top-up it provides to the Discretionary Housing Payment scheme. These payments provide financial support to low income households where their state benefits do not meet the full cost of their rent.

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Mayor Joanne Anderson said finding the almost £50m in savings for this year had been the “hardest challenge during my time as Mayor” amid a cost of living crisis and soaring inflation. Opposition groups from across the chamber united this evening to oppose the budget, with Green group leader Cllr Tom Crone saying while he recognised the pressure on the council and how there was “no easy way to balance the books,” the most vulnerable must be protected and called on the authority to not raise its reserves any further.

Cllr Steve Radford, leader of the Liberal Party group, said the move to increase reserves came “at a time when people are struggling to pay council tax and bills.” Liberal Democrat group deputy leader Cllr Andrew Makinson took aim at the Labour group for implementing a near 5% rise when people are “choosing between heating and eating.”

A number of councillors criticised the council’s move to write off almost £230m in bad debt, with Cllr Alan Gibbons asked who would take responsibility for such a decision. Cllr Richard Kemp, leader of the Liberal Democrat group, said he would only vote in favour if “if the Labour group says the words the people of Liverpool deserve to hear and need from you.

“Labour apologies for the way we have run this city.” Responding, Cllr Liam Robinson, leader of the Labour group and cabinet member for finance, said opposition members had failed to put forward any “practical options” and sought to “play political games.”

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He said he was confident the city council would complete its improvement journey on time in June next year and to not pass the budget would invite government appointed commissioners to extend their stay. Cllr Robinson said: “Blood, sweat and tears have gone into this budget, where is the alternative?

“It isn’t there.” The Kensington and Fairfield member said his group had put forward “the best possible budget in extremely difficult circumstances.”

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