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Sefton’s Budget 2021: An Open Letter

The leader of Sefton Council, Cllr Ian Maher, has published an open letter to all residents and businesses, following the approval of the 2021/22 budget at yesterday’s Full Council meeting (4th March).

In the letter, Cllr Maher thanks the Sefton community for pulling together over the past 12 months and recognises the hard work and dedication by the Council’s workforce to continue to deliver essential services in the midst of a global pandemic.

To view and download the 2021/22 Sefton Council Budget Documents please click the below links.

Budget 2021/22
Budget 2021/22 – Accessible Version

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Dear all,

Last night (Thursday, March 4) Sefton Council set its budget for 2021/22. As a result of Covid, this is the most technical budget the council has set. We’ve always managed our budget to the highest standard despite having to make over £233m of savings over the last 10 years so that we’re able to continue delivering services that are most needed within our communities, and pre-pandemic the Council was in a robust financial position and had delivered a balanced budget.

We have an excellent track record of effectively managing our finances and delivering financial sustainability.

But of course, the impact of Covid cannot be ignored.

At the beginning of this crisis, local authorities were told by Government to do “whatever it takes” to support communities. That’s what we have done, and the response has been nothing short of incredible.

But this response comes at a cost – and the figures involved are just startling. This is expenditure that we haven’t made by choice, but by necessity. This year Sefton Council has put food on the table for families who would otherwise go hungry, housed the homeless, co-ordinated a massive volunteer response, supported those who are out of work due to the crisis, supplied PPE to our frontline workers and care homes, and we’ll keep doing everything we can to help local businesses stay afloat.

Our schools in Sefton have been fantastic, and we have worked hard to support them in delivering home schooling, supporting families of key workers and ensuring the most vulnerable children continue to attend school wherever possible.

Teams at Sefton Council have worked so hard to support local businesses however they can. From providing advice and information, to administering over 10,000 business grant applications totalling nearly £70 million, plus £41 million in Retail Discount (Business Rates Holiday) has been awarded to 1700 businesses.

The impact of the pandemic is hitting now and will be felt for years to come. Local authorities need continual funding. Every Council has seen a rise in demand for services, but also a loss of income from fees and charges and reductions in council tax and business rates. We’ve been calling on Government for months to deliver the resources the Council needs to support residents.

So how has the Government responded to our calls for increased and continual funding?

With announcements that are nothing more than smoke and mirrors!

The Government will have you believe that they are making £1 billion of funding available for local authorities for social care. What they won’t tell you is that £700 million of that comes from allowing councils to increase council tax. This is incredibly unfair, and only transfers the burden on to every single local resident and council tax payer. But we have no choice. The Government are simply not providing local authorities, such as Sefton Council, with the funding they need to deliver essential services.

Therefore, the Council will need to continually monitor and evaluate the impact of the pandemic and make any required decisions as they arise throughout the year. Our biggest risks still come from Children’s Social Care and income from council tax and business rates; and for a Council of our size and complexity, our level of reserves remains low and needs increasing.

Which is why we’re left with no choice but to increase Council Tax once again this year to help fund the unprecedented demand on Children’s Social Care and to be able to continue to provide the everyday services residents rely on. That means that for the provision of council services, it will cost the majority of householders an extra £1.39 or less per week (figures based on a Band C property).

Nevertheless, we will strive to ensure that essential services that safeguard the most vulnerable residents across the whole borough are protected and prioritised in addition to ensuring that financial sustainability is maintained.

This is no easy feat and when I look around the borough, I’m still amazed and impressed with the quantity and quality of services that we still continue to offer.

I am immensely proud of the way in which the Council has responded to the Covid-19 pandemic, working in very demanding and challenging times. We’ve faced a rollercoaster of tightening and relaxing of restrictions and ever-changing guidance over the last few months, but essential council services continued throughout the pandemic and I just want to go on record, once again, and thank all Council staff for the tremendous work, commitment and dedication over these last few months.

Throughout this difficult and uncertain time, I am proud that the people of Sefton have come together to support their friends and neighbours, and I have been heartened by the number of people coming forward to volunteer their time and energy to help their communities.

But community spirit is not enough, and we will also continue to press the Government to keep the promise made by Ministers to provide us with the funding to support our communities.

There are still many positives within the budget. Projects and programmes which started in 2020/21 will continue and come to fruition during this year. Unashamedly ambitious schemes which will bring with them continued and sustained economic growth, such as the £37.5 million Southport Town Deal, the redevelopment of Crosby Lakeside Adventure Centre, a brand-new Southport Market, and of course, our exciting plans for the future of Bootle Strand and Bootle Town Centre regeneration. All of this activity demonstrates our commitment to delivering our 2030 Vision for Sefton.

Take Care & Best wishes

Cllr Ian Maher

Further government grants available for businesses remaining closed as restrictions continue

Following the Prime Ministers announcement on Monday 22nd February 2021 of a continuation of National Lockdown restrictions, the government has confirmed that further grant support is available to businesses that have been instructed to remain closed.

Payments will be made in the form of a Local Restrictions Support Grant for a 44 day period from 16th February 2021 to 31st March 2021.

  • £2,096 for businesses with a property rateable value of £15,000 or less.
  • £3,143 for businesses with a property rateable value of between £15,001 and £51,999
  • £4,174 for businesses with a rateable value of £51,000 or more

Business ratepayers who have already applied for, or been paid a grant for the national restrictions imposed on 4th January 2021 will not need to re-apply and businesses will be contacted directly with details of their grant payments. The Council will, however, be required to complete some pre-payment checks to confirm that businesses remain eligible for the further payment. If we require further information, businesses will be contacted directly.

Unfortunately, Sefton Council will also be required to close its payment system down for a few days to commence the calculation and production of  140,000 Business Rates and Council Tax Bills and this will hinder payments from being issued as quickly as might be hoped. However, the Council is working on a timeline of issuing payments to all eligible businesses between 12th and 19th March 2021.

Full details of eligibility is available on the Sefton Council website here under the section ‘Local Restrictions Support Grant (For Businesses Instructed to Close)’. 

The team dealing with and processing business grants will not be able to respond to individual calls or enquiries asking for updates on payments, so the continued patience from businesses is greatly appreciated.

Sefton Council launches new funding round to help Sefton communities bring local project ideas to life

Sefton Council has launched a new round of funding to back ideas which will put local people at the heart of the efforts to create more vibrant, resilient and connected communities.

The funding opportunity is part of Sefton Crowd, an initiative that aims to give anyone who lives locally with ideas about how to improve their area the opportunity to gain funding via the UK’s leading civic crowdfunding platform Spacehive.

The aim is simple – to fund and deliver exciting and innovative ideas to improve Sefton put forward by the local community, for the local community.

The council has allocated a dedicated fund of £50,000 for projects taking part in the programme.

So far, over 750 residents, businesses and other organisations, have come together alongside the council to get behind 17 ideas, with over £90,000 raised across Sefton. From wildflower meadows to virtual music festivals, Sefton Crowd is helping people bring their ideas to life.

The Woodend Community Woodland Project is just one example.

Frank Sharp, Trustee of Friends of Maghull District said: “In the most challenging of times, the rich, accessible, friendly collaborative support from Spacehive and the incredibly generous motivational pledges from their partners Sefton Council, Idverde and others made the seemingly impossible possible.

“This enabled us to exceed our £23,803 funding target by 14%, to reinvigorate an historic woodland entrance to Maghull, with a welcoming, accessible, safe, iconic and engaging wildlife friendly space, focusing on enhancing the environment, history, community, and legacy.”

The deadline to put forward your own idea is the 21st April. You can get started by simply visiting Spacehive’s website and creating your own project page.

Spacehive will also lead a programme of events for anyone who is interested in learning a little bit more or might want to test or discuss ideas that they would like to put forward first. Free online events are taking place on the 9th March at 2pm and 19th March at 12pm.

Sefton Crowd forms part of a new approach to civic planning by Sefton Council which sees crowdfunding as a key channel to involve communities and local organisations in regeneration.

Cllr Trish Hardy, Sefton Council’s cabinet member for communities and housing, said: “We’re ready to support projects that answer our call for ideas which put local people at the heart of the efforts to help Sefton recover from the pandemic.

“I’m also calling on companies and foundations to join us in offering support – whether funding or in-kind – to the ideas people post on the platform so we can work together to make them a real success. The more people that get involved in Sefton Crowd the more amazing places we can create together.”

And it’s not just the council offering funding to local projects. The idverde Community Investment Fund could pledge up to £1,000. It aims to empower local people to deliver sought after projects that improve their local green space or the public realm, enhance the local environment, and boost the wellbeing of local people.

If you are interested in taking part in the next funding round of Sefton Crowd, as a funder or to fund your own project, please visit www.spacehive.com/movement/seftoncrowd or email info@spacehive.com.

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New £10m Local Business Support Grants Launched for Liverpool City Region

A further £10m round of financial support has been announced for Liverpool City Region businesses.

The new Local Business Support Grants, of between £3,750 and £13,500 per business, are aimed at businesses who have not yet accessed funding from the Liverpool City Region.

The £10m fund is the latest round of the Liverpool City Region Combined Authority’s COVID emergency funds.

Since they were announced in October last year, more than 1,700 businesses have been supported through the first two rounds of funding. Businesses who have previously been supported are eligible for top-up grants of up to £10,500 and are being contacted directly by their local councils.

In Sefton, the first two rounds of funding have already seen over £1.6m of grants paid to 313 businesses. There still remains an exceptionally high volume of work created by these rounds of funding and the subsequent top-up grants, and businesses are thanked for their patience during this time. 

The new grants are aimed at small and microbusinesses, specifically:

  • Businesses that have been ordered to close and are outside the business rate system.
  • Businesses in the hospitality and leisure supply chain that either pay business rates or have commercial property related costs.
  • Self-employed / Sole trader / home-based businesses / licenced market traders working in or supplying the retail, hospitality and leisure sectors.
  • Businesses in any sector, including the self-employed / sole traders / home-based businesses, that can demonstrate a loss of income of more than 40% due to Covid-19. Businesses can also apply for this grant if they pay business rates or have commercial property related costs.

Businesses wishing to apply for the grants should do so through their local council. Sefton based businesses can find guidance and further details about the application process on the Sefton Council website. 

In a joint statement, the Leaders and Acting Mayor of the six City Region Local Authorities, and Metro Mayor Steve Rotheram, said: “We know how tough this last year has been for local businesses and we are doing everything we can to help support them through the pandemic.

“We’ve already distributed tens of millions of pounds to local businesses and this latest fund is open to the sorts of small and micro businesses that have not yet qualified for funding, so we can safeguard more jobs and livelihoods. Thousands of people depend on these businesses for their livelihoods and they are at the very heart of our communities.

“The vaccine rollout is continuing, and we can start to see a return to something resembling normality. Let’s keep looking after each other and we can make it through the coming weeks and months.”

An initial “window” will open for receipt of applications for the Liverpool City Region Local Business Support Grant  from 10am on Wednesday 10 February 2021 and close at 5pm on Friday 26 February 2021.

It is anticipated that demand for the Local Business Support Grants will outstrip supply, so businesses are encouraged to apply as soon as possible.

The Local Business Support Grant will be administered by each of the six local authorities that form the Combined Authority, namely Halton, Knowsley, Liverpool, Sefton, St Helens and Wirral.

Additional support announced for Liverpool City Region taxi drivers

A further £2m fund, established by the Liverpool City Region Combined Authority to enable its six local authorities to contribute to the costs of taxi licences, has been announced, taking the total support package to £3.5 million.

Established in October last year, the first round of the fund enabled the six local authorities to provide £100 each towards the cost of the taxi licence for taxi drivers resident in the Liverpool City Region.
The Leaders and Acting Mayor of the City Region’s six local authorities and the Metro Mayor have now agreed to increase that fund to a maximum of £3.5 million.

Drivers who have already received the £100 grant are eligible for an additional grant of £200, and a £200 grant will also be available to drivers who have not yet applied for support.

City Region leaders have also continued to campaign for the Government to increase the amount of specific financial support they are providing for taxi drivers and other self-employed people and freelancers impacted by the pandemic – many of whom are still not eligible for any of the national support schemes.

The funding will be allocated proportionately to each local authority, according to the number of licensed taxi drivers in their area. For details on how to access the funding, taxi drivers should consult their local licensing authority’s website.

Drivers licensed by Sefton Council will receive a letter detailing how they can access the grant. Further details are available on the Sefton Council website.

The fund will enable all of the city region’s local authorities to top up schemes which benefit local taxi drivers in addition to what is available to them through national support schemes, such as SEISS (the Government’s Self-Employment Income Support Scheme).

In a joint statement, the Leaders and Acting Mayor of the six City Region Local Authorities, and Metro Mayor Steve Rotheram, said: “We recognise the hardship experienced by our area’s taxi drivers, who have seen their trade seriously affected by the Coronavirus restrictions.

“We acknowledged when we launched this fund that it was a gesture of support. We know that this additional funding is still largely symbolic but have made it available in recognition of the ongoing impact of the pandemic.

“As the City Region’s political leadership, we are continuing to press the Government for financial support packages that work for everyone whose livelihood has been affected by Covid-19 restrictions.”

Steve Rotheram
Metro Mayor of the Liverpool City Region

Cllr Rob Polhill
Leader of Halton Council

Cllr Graham Morgan
Leader of Knowsley Council

Cllr Wendy Simon
Acting Mayor of Liverpool

Cllr Ian Maher
Leader of Sefton Council

Cllr David Baines
Leader of St Helens Council

Cllr Janette Williamson
Leader of Wirral Council

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