Liverpool City Council cuts are 'heart-breaking'

Protesters outside Liverpool Town Hall
Image caption Protesters gathered outside the town hall for the meeting on Wednesday

Council tax will rise, up to 10 libraries will close and school uniform grants will be scrapped as Liverpool City Council tries to save £32m.

The cuts were agreed at a meeting on Tuesday evening, as up to 200 protesters gathered at the town hall.

Deputy mayor Paul Brant said the "heart-breaking" decisions were made "with a heavy heart".

Cuts were also agreed elsewhere in Merseyside by Knowsley, Halton and St Helens councils.

One man was arrested for a public order offence outside Liverpool council's meeting at the town hall.

Nurseries sold off

The council approved a tax rise of 1.8% to generate £2m - £400,000 of which will go towards a hardship fund to help those worst hit by the cuts.

The rise means people living in a Band A property - 51.4% of households - will pay an additional £18.15 per year.

The leader of the Liberal Democrats in the council, Richard Kemp, had previously said any rise in council tax was "absolutely unnecessary" as the proposed increase would only raise £400,000 more than a freeze would as "the government will give us £1.5m to keep it level".

Additional areas of council provision being considered for savings are:

  • Introducing charges for community alarms at sheltered housing, saving £449,000 per year.
  • Four nurseries will be sold off, saving £800,000 per year.
  • Funding withdrawn from the Truancy Watch service, saving £132,000.
  • The "youth and play service" could be transferred to the voluntary sector to save £2.1m, following a review, but the council said it is investing an extra £2.5m in activities and facilities for young people.
  • Closure of Kirkby and Allerton municipal golf courses, which both run at a loss, is being considered to save up to £300,000.
  • Review the withdrawal of part-funding for sheltered housing wardens, with landlords asked to fund the shortfall, to save £1m.
  • Review closing homeless hostels at Geneva Road and Aigburth Drive, saving £150,000 per year.

'Heavy heart'

Mayor Joe Anderson warned more cuts were to come. The £32m budget savings come on top of the £141m of cuts over the past two years and further cuts of £46m in 2014-15, £35m in 2015-16 and £36m in 2016-17.

Image caption Mayor Joe Anderson warned more cuts are to come

Following the meeting Mr Brant said: "We have, with a heavy heart, to balance the books. We're elected to do the best we can with the cards we're dealt by the government and we have done that."

He said the decision to scrap the school uniform grant was "heart-breaking" but the council was "just unable to continue to afford it any longer".

Announcing the funding cuts in December, Conservative communities secretary Eric Pickles said authorities had plenty of scope to make further savings while "safeguarding vital public services" and "ending the something-for-nothing culture".

Knowsley Council announced 340 job cuts, the closure of four children's centres, increased charges for leisure facilities and commercial waste collections, but council tax was frozen.

Halton residents will see a council tax rise of 1.9%, with the charge levied on empty properties and second homes.

St Helens Council, which needs to save £50m by 2015, voted to freeze council tax.

However the authority will have to shed more than 1,000 jobs in the three years to 2015 and opening hours will be reduced at libraries.

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