Lord Mayor, I would like to place on record my thanks for the hard work of council officers who have been involved with the process of setting this budget.
There is no doubt that the continued impacts of austerity make each year more of a challenge, and I am extremely grateful for the team work and resilience of council officers in all departments for keeping services running despite these huge challenges.
In recent years our budget amendments have consistently called for more money to be allocated to children’s services and adult social care. While the pressure on these services is still intense, the recent announcement that Liverpool will recruit 160 children’s social care staff, and the fact that adult social care is currently within budget, mean we have decided it is possible to turn attention this year to the defining emergency of a generation.
That is the Climate Emergency that is being rightly declared in councils across the country. The UN has said we have 12 years left to cut our carbon emissions in half. Another report, also from the UN shows that the difference between 1.5 degrees centigrade and 2 degrees of warming, means millions more people impacted, the survival or extinction of all the world’s coral reefs, the disappearance of the northern ice caps. We have already warmed the planet by 1 degree, so the importance of action could not be starker.
It is not too late. The solutions are out there, all that is needed is for politicians to put their money where their mouths are and start the green revolution.
That is exactly what our budget amendment does.
We propose the creation of a £120m Climate Emergency Fund. This will give a budget of 30m per year for the next four years to be spent on carbon reduction measures. Tried and tested technologies, such as renewable energy installations, home insulation and sustainable transport, as well as new pioneering ideas, which Liverpool can become a leader in, such as carbon extraction and moving away from private car ownership via the promotion of a council run, city wide, community car club.
None of these actions alone is revolutionary, but taken together they represent the beginning of a Green Revolution.
This investment will benefit the people of Liverpool, not just because our air will be cleaner, our roads less congested and the climate less at threat, but in more direct ways too.
With better insulated homes, we can start to tackle the scourge of fuel poverty. As shared ownership of vehicles becomes the norm, people who can’t afford a car today, will in the future have access to one. With the investment in these vital green measures, we will create jobs and new opportunities for Liverpool based businesses.
I am in no doubt that given the pressure on council finances, to really achieve long term ecological sustainability we will need government investment as well. But we cannot afford to wait for Whitehall to decide there is a climate emergency. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has already made this abundantly clear, so it is the responsibility of every decision maker at every level in every country to do whatever they can to secure the future for our children and all generations after that.
We can decide tonight to respond, to make changes to our business as usual plans and start a journey towards a greener future, or we can duck the decision and kick the can further down the road. Only there is not much road left, we are close to the cliff edge.
Its decision time. Tonight we choose to invest £120m in Liverpool’s transformation, or we decide instead to put most of that money into road repairs.
I spend time on Liverpool’s roads like everyone in this room, so I know they are in urgent need of investment. That is why our budget only takes a portion of the highways investment fund. Each year we will still allocate an additional 10-15m for road repairs, so a significant increase. We feel this is an adequate sum to address the most urgent repairs to make the roads as safe as possible for all road users.
Therefore we have a choice between committing enormous sums laying down more tarmac so that we can carry on as before, or we can face up to the challenges before us and choose a new path.
And lets be in no doubt, approving our amendment tonight will put Liverpool on the map. This will be a major statement from one of the country’s major cities that enough is enough. It will show the way for other local authorities, and it might even finally shame the government into action. If we can take decisive action despite everything they have thrown at us, then what on earth are they waiting for?
With half the world’s population living in cities, and over half the world’s carbon emissions coming from cities we have to be the leaders on this issue. With our coast line, our wind (which as a cyclist I am all too aware of), and much more sun than Manchester, Liverpool is in prime position to lead the way on renewable energy.
Liverpool is a city which knows how to pull together in a crisis, a city that has reinvented itself before, and which can do it again. If we as city leaders show vision and leadership there is no limit to what we can achieve.
I therefore recommend this Climate Emergency Budget to council and urge you to support it.