Sefton Council Leader, Cllr Ian Maher has given a cautious welcome to news that Chancellor Rishi Sunak plans to invest in skills and education, families, business, transport and culture in his budget statement this week.
Cllr Maher said: “After years of Government austerity and the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, these are all areas that desperately need more investment.
“But what we need to see this week is guaranteed new money and long-term commitments that mean people in Sefton will really see a levelling-up, rather than headline-grabbing announcements.
“As a result of the pandemic, Councils such as Sefton have seen huge increases in demand, particularly in the areas of adult and children’s social care services. And, at the same time we have taken a huge hit in terms of lost income due to lost revenue from closed facilities and lower Council Tax and Business Rate income.
“At the same time, large numbers of families across the Borough are facing increased financial pressures from the Government’s recent, £20-per-week cut in Universal Credit, higher household fuel costs and rising prices in shops.
“To make sure we can build back better from the damage done by austerity and the pandemic, Sefton and other councils need sustainable, three-year financial settlements that enable us to plan strategically as well as greater Government support for frontline services.
“And the cost of this should not be passed on to local people through us being required to increase Council Tax to pay for vital services.
“If we do not see these measures from the Chancellor on Wednesday, no matter what Mr Sunak and his colleagues claim, what this budget statement will really represent is cuts that will hit the most vulnerable.”
In an open letter in May when the Council set its budget, Cllr Maher wrote to Sefton Council Tax-payers explaining that the authority had had been forced to make £233 million of savings over the past ten years. And, he described the cost to the Council of dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic as ‘startling’.
He said that at the beginning of the crisis, the Government told local councils to do “whatever it takes,” but described ministers’ responses to calls for increased and continual funding as ‘nothing more than smoke and mirrors’.
Today, Cllr Maher said: “This week is an opportunity for this Government to show that it has the interests of everyone at heart, by announcing budget plans that enable us to support local communities to recover, and to develop our ambitious plans for sustained economic growth across the Borough.”