I know from experience that the Cabinet can be a tough gig for an opposition councillor who is trying to get a point across. The Mayor is in a position of undisputed power: he chairs the meeting; he is the administration’s speaker; he interrupts at will. There is no right of reply when he abuses his opponents.
At the Cabinet meeting, 15th August, Green councillor Tom Crone gave a clear account of the Green Party proposal to dedicate some of the Mayor and councillors’ discretionary funds, about £1.6m of them, to cover the proposed cuts in the front line library services. This was set out as a budget amendment in March and was checked at the time by council finance officers.
With elapsed time, some of that money is no longer available and this was acknowledged by Tom. He also acknowledged that some very worthwhile projects would suffer if the money is used to support libraries instead. It is not a proposal without problems, but we still think it is worth seeing what can be done.
Instead of engaging with the arguments over our proposal, the Mayor has misrepresented them. He said, again, that the Greens have claimed this £1.6m can be used over and over again to cover other budget pressures, for example that it can be used to “fix pot holes”. We have never said such a thing: this £1.6m saving proposal has only ever been targeted at saving the libraries.
The Mayor also misled people by claiming our use of the £1.6m was a one-off and left a revenue hole for future years. In fact, our proposal extends over the three years of the medium term financial plan – see the text
It is a matter of shame for the city that its elected mayor appears to be willing to be so reckless with the facts. And it is a worry that his own cabinet members who hear these falsehoods appear willing to tolerate them and the polluted debate that follows.
For information, the text of the relevant part of the Green budget is here.
There are two revenue lines allocated for direction by councillors and by the Mayor for optional, discretionary projects – Mayoral Neighbourhood Fund £1.24m and Leader’s Fund £1m. Those funds should be reduced to £404k and £202k, representing a reduction to approximately one third and one fifth of their budgets, respectively. Those levels should be maintained for 2015/16 and 2016/17.
The consequent saving of £1.634m should be used to stop any library closures in Liverpool.
Written by Cllr Tom Crone