|Council is squirrelling away tens of millions “surplus” per year (click to enlarge)|
When activists from Liverpool Against The Cuts staged an occupation in the council chamber this afternoon, they released a statement rejecting “the idea that ‘there is no money’.” Little did they know, documents found on tables in that room seem to prove that Liverpool council’s claims that its hands are tied are nothing more than lies.
This fiction is a central part of Mayor Joe Anderson’s Labour council’s strategy for passing the buck – it was a key part of the agenda at today’s “fair austerity” conference which Anderson held at the Convention Centre by the docks. Indeed, Kensington and Fairfield councillor Louise Baldock reacted to the sit-in by telling conflicted members of a Merseyside Labour Facebook group that:
“It [money] isn’t there in the coffers to be spent. They [central government] hold the purse strings. It is not like a contract that can be negotiated. It is simply a sum of money sent to an authority to enable it to do its work. If the Government decides to send less money to an authority – or hugely less in Liverpool’s case – there is nothing to be done. You can make a fuss – hence our Mayor calling a summit today with other affected cities and bishops etc, to try to embarass [sic] the government into changing its mind. That is the only kind of action available to us. So we have to work out how to cut our much smaller cake. We can demand more cake but they dont have to listen. There is no opportunity to “say no” etc.”
Yet the documents show that in December 2011, the Labour executive’s Finance Director Peter Timmins proposed:
“To change the Annual Investment Strategy within the Treasury Strategy 2011/2012, so that the Council can invest more of its cash surpluses [emphasis added] in Government supported banks, to improve its income and lessen its risk exposure.”
He went on to recommend:
“That the Investment Limits within the Treasury Strategy 2011/12 be changed from £20 million to £40 million for both Lloyds Banking Group and Royal Bank of Scotland Group.”
In other words, Liverpool Council had at least £80 million to play with in 2012, and decided to put it in the bank rather than use it to either shore up council services or reduce council tax rates. This appears to be in addition to the reserves which councils are legally required to keep for a national emergency. For people facing huge cuts in living standards, life in 2013 is feeling like just such a national emergency. In England alone, councils hold £12.9 billion in reserves.
|The axe hangs over school milk and teen pregnancy services (click to enlarge)|
To add insult to injury, another document strewn on one of the benches reveals that amongst many other things, the council has been considering stopping teen pregnancy services, school uniform grants and milk provision for 5-7 year olds entirely. Though the red colouring may mean that these services have been saved for now, the total cuts proposed for 2012/13 amount to ‘only’ £46 million – far less than the “surplus” for the year which was put in the coffers of Lloyds and RBS. Indeed the total of all the cuts proposed over a three year period is around £200 million – less than three years of “surplus” by 2011/12 standards.
Whether the money comes from the council’s “surplus”, their reserves, from central government or directly from the pockets of banksters in the City of London, Liverpool Against The Cuts demand that the council do not implement the cuts. If they choose to, they can expect further resistance. We appeal to anti-cuts groups and affected workers around the country to take similar action.
What do you think about these documents? They are unclear – can you help translate bureaucrat-speak?