Guest blog: Liverpool Council deputy leader Flo Clucas says the people wanted a council tax freeze
Last week the Liberal Democrat administration on Liverpool City Council announced its budget proposals.
These included a council tax freeze, a cut in the pay bill for senior council officers and a focus on protecting front-line services.
As the executive member for finance, this has been my major piece of work for the past year. Our budget has been influenced by our Lib Dem values, by the current economic situation and by what the citizens of Liverpool have told us they wanted.
The current economic situation was well illustrated by Frank Field's (Labour MP for Birkenhead) article in the Liverpool Echo recently. The deficit, rate of inflation, and the 'necessity for (government) cuts' that he outlined gave powerful food for thought.
We know how hard it is for some families because of job losses, short time working, savings falling in value and rising prices that will give many difficult choices to make over the next few months. As the evidence for the depth of the recession became clear earlier this year, the Liberal Democrats did a survey across all of our communities. We asked people what they wanted to see in the budget.
The thousands of responses that were returned from terraced streets and leafy suburbs alike, had one thing in common: council tax. Although Liverpool has one of the lowest in the country, people still felt that they wanted to see little or no increase this year. The Liberal Democrats set out to honour what our citizens wanted.
As a council, we also wanted to protect front line services to our elderly, to those with children at school and to our businesses. We have therefore kept our school uniform grants. We have ensured extra cash for social care and enhanced facilities such as Prescott Drive, a facility offering short stays for children and young people with disabilities.
Liberal Democrats want people to stay fitter longer and to enjoy the facilities that we have in the city. There will be no charge for young people who live in Liverpool, to spend time at any of our leisure facilities; activities are free. We want them to succeed at school, so our innovative post 16 grants for books and equipment will continue, to help those staying on in education.
Our Over 60s too will be able to enjoy free swimming and we are giving them more control over how they spend their money, by enhancing our Person Centred Social Care packages, known as Personalisation. We want older people to enjoy life and if that means spending time line dancing, or playing darts, rather than in a bus travelling to a centre for a couple of hours before facing a long journey back that's great! The point is, it should be up to them. It should be their choice not ours.
The Liberal Democrat budget puts an extra ÃÂ£1m in reserves, continues to pay for 13 additional police officers in the city centre and will put more money than ever into our local neighbourhood communities. Money has been cut from the wage bill of senior council officers and there are reductions in some backroom cash too. There are no redundancies and we will, in fact, be taking on young people in the next few months. We will also continue to find training and employment for those youngsters in care, to try to give them a good start in life.
There are those who will criticise this budget and say that Liberal Democrats should have put up Council Tax. But as Liberal Democrats, we want this city to grow, to be attractive both to those who live here and to those who are looking for a new home. We want businesses to establish in the city, and to move here. The more who come, the greater the number of jobs and the better our city will be.