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Tom Crone’s Budget Speech

Lord Mayor

Frankly I can’t see social services surviving after two years. That’s the absolute maximum.

“If we don’t do something within the next six months, I believe social services will not exist by 2018-19.

“This isn’t scaremongering, this isn’t me asking you to feel sad for me – whoever is making decisions out there has looked at social care as the Cinderella of the service, which means more and more people are staying at home with high needs because of the removal of the prevention agenda.

“People are struggling, people are suffering, and we’re really only seeing the tip of the iceberg.”

These aren’t my words or the words of my colleagues; these are the words of our respected Director of adult social care Samih Kalakeche.

And in recent months, newspaper headlines and broadcasters sound bites have screamed that social care is in crisis, that it needs an urgent injection of cash to cope with the increasing demands of an ageing population, increasing life expectancy, and a growing funding gap.

We are proposing calling a referendum for a 9% council tax increase. If we get a referendum this time we won’t call for referendum triggering rises for the next two years. We are front loading the increase, so future smaller raises are applied to a larger base rate, and so that we do not have to have more than one costly referendum.

Why 9%

Despite the failure by the Mayor to promote the case for a referendum triggering council tax rise during his half-hearted online consultation, 42% of participants declared themselves in favour of the proposed 10%. We believe that with a concerted, fully informed campaign, a majority of people would support a 9% increase, especially when the amount of vital services this could provide is spelled out.

The additional council tax rise is equivalent to 74p a week for the majority of households in Liverpool, and will raise just shy of an extra £6m. 

As well at the council tax rise we will make reductions to the highest paid senior staff salaries and to the allowances paid to the elected mayor and mayoral leads.

We will make a further saving by scrapping free parking for Councillors. This would be an administration showing leadership in the fight against air pollution, rather than one which scraps bus lanes, chainsaws down mature trees to build a multi storey car park, flogs off green space for development, then announces a back of a fag packet policy about banning diesel cars in 8 years’ time. 

It would only be fair to mention at this point that the leader of the Lib Dems showed clearly where he stands on green issues when he voted in favour of removing the trees at Victoria Street for a new 330 space car park which will increase traffic and air pollution in the city centre.

The extra revenue brought in through our proposals would enable us to prevent a number of cuts to Communities which would help keep Liverpool cleaner and safer. For example we will reverse the planned £300K cut to Environmental Health. This will do more to promote cleanliness and safety in our neighbourhoods than any throw away notion of letting people off their council tax if they give information about dog fouling. Contrast Green commitment to the environment versus Labour policy on the hoof.

We will also prevent any departmental cuts to Adult Social Care and Children and Young People’s Services, which are among the most stretched departments in the council. As well as reversing departmental cuts there will remain £3.5m to allocate to providing front line care to the most vulnerable children and older people in the city, including through care packages for older adults. 

Ours is a bold budget proposal which would help protect social care and essential front line services dealing with basic cleanliness and safety in our communities. But we wanted to be bolder. We also want a change of governance structure. We have not been allowed to include this in our budget amendment but we are signalling loud and clear that we want the current post of Mayor of Liverpool to be scrapped and indeed for the whole system of governance including Mayoral Lead posts to be reviewed with the aim of a much leaner and less costly version being in place at the earliest opportunity. This is especially important given the fact that in a couple of months’ time we will have three mayors, a situation that is clearly absurd and needs to be addressed.

Protecting social care, cleanliness, basic hygiene, safety – these are all key aspects of this budget amendment, and fundamental responsibilities of a local authority. A vote against this amendment is a vote for fly tipping, cutting staff numbers in departments that are already under huge strain, and denying the care that can return dignity to our most vulnerable residents. I therefore urge you to support this amendment

Councillor Tom Crome – Leader of the Liverpool Greens

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