Liverpool Council consider cancelling Christmas lights to reduce £73m gap in finances

Liverpool Council is considering drastic options to reduce a huge gap in its budget.

Liverpool Council could scrap Christmas lights as it looks to balance its books for next year.

Last night the local authority published a raft of measures it was considering to plug a £73m gap in its finances ahead of the new financial year. Among them are reductions in its welfare services, culture budget and potential job losses.

A comprehensive list of savings measures has been compiled by seven directorates across the city council, which include a dramatic reduction in its festive offering. It is proposed that £100,000 could be saved by the city removing the budget that supports the overall Christmas programme and working with partners to replace the activity.

Of that, £80,000 would be generated by scrapping Christmas lighting installations in the city centre. The report said: “The Christmas tree will continue to be provided and we will work with The Business Improvement District and Liverpool One BID (Business Improvement District) to create and maintain a great Christmas offer for the city.”

The council said for each proposal that will result in a change to service or policy an initial equalities screening has been undertaken considering at an early stage the potential impact proposed changes may have on different groups. Among those to be hardest hit are the discretionary welfare support schemes.

On the table is a proposal to review the scope of the Liverpool Citizens Support Scheme (LCSS) and introduce a repair or replace element for domestic appliances, remove furniture packages for tenants of registered providers and remove home starter packs that could save £1.1m. Discretionary council tax relief for foster carers to bring in almost £500,000 could be removed while a further £3m could be found by reducing the council tax support scheme support to 80% for working age residents.

Reducing the scope or scrapping the benefits maximisation team at the Cunard Building could raise £1m while additional council funding for discretionary housing payments could bring in a similar amount. The local authority in its assessment of where to cut, said social care had been “structurally underfunded for 12 years” with plans for rectifying the funding gap “increasingly threatened by the cost-of-living crisis.”

Savings will be made in adult social care, health and homelessness, by moving away from an over reliance on formal council services, over provision and a “culture that promotes long-term involvement”. More than £2m has been earmarked as a potential fund raiser by “significantly reduce spend on commissioned care” while around £400,000 could be brought in by remodelling the council’s homelessness support to reduce “over reliance on B&Bs and provide more cost effective alternatives.”

Further cuts

Further discretionary cuts could be made in the council’s neighbourhood department, with potentially around half a million earmarked through a review of the city’s leisure centres and moving to a new operator as well as the city’s cruise liner terminal. Grass cutting may also be stripped back “where opportunities exist to reduce the level of overall maintenance as part of a wider strategy in response to the climate emergency and the growing movement to promote ecological recovery and biodiversity through reducing formal maintenance in areas of parks and green spaces.”

Funding to the cultural arts investment programme is also earmarked for reduction while fees and charges across the city are proposed to rise 3% year on year. Parking income could raise more than £2m for Liverpool this year, while increased matchday parking enforcement will “provide improved resident experience whilst generating revenue,” it said. A pavement licence charge of £100 could be reintroduced while the city’s Streetscene service contract could be stripped back by 10%.

By targeting improved income and debt recovery from non-payers of council tax and other fees, an additional £7m is anticipated to be generated next year, increasing to £18m in 2025/26. The authority has also set a target of reducing its own electricity and gas consumption by 10%.

This includes the application of temperature standards to drive building efficiency savings. In addition, the “council will continue working in collaboration with Liverpool City Region Combined Authority to apply for and obtain capital funding to accelerate the de-carbonisation of council property assets.”

On potential job losses, the options document said: “Collectively the services have identified savings options which are based on reductions in staff numbers, some are existing vacancies, or would be delivered through a review of the service or by bringing together resources from around the council. As described above, any reduction in staffing in corporate services will have an impact, proportionate to the size of the existing team.”