Liverpool is facing another difficult year when it comes to spending – with the city's already creaking public finances hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic.
The city council has been consulting on its cost-cutting proposals for the 2021/22 financial year as it needs to find a further £15.4m in savings.
This is on top of the circa £450m the council has been made to cut since the austerity agenda arrived in 2010.
The budget is due to be finalised by cabinet before being voted on at a full council meeting on March 3.
Ahead of this, we've taken a close look at what is in Liverpool's latest budget plan – and what it will mean for you.
Context and covid
Liverpool Council has been facing financial challenges since long before the coronavirus pandemic arrived.
Since 2010, the council has faced £450m worth of cuts to its budget – with thousands of jobs at the authority lost and services removed.
On March 4 2020, the council set a balanced budget for 2020/21 that included savings of just under £30m.
Just two weeks later, the country was in lockdown.
The pandemic has hit local councils really hard for two reasons.
One is that they have spent a huge amount on supporting local people – while at the same time they have lost large amounts of revenue from things like car parking, other fees and charges.
Liverpool City Council is on target to spend an additional £82m on covid-related charges during 2020/21.
It is also on target to have lost around £31m in income from these other areas.
But after much lobbying, the council has received some help with funding from central government and has been making other non-covid related savings through the year to try and ease the burden.
But of course some major savings will still need to be made – here are some of the things the council is planning.
This is the big one when it comes to the impact on the people of Liverpool.
The city council has become more and more reliant on Council Tax and Business Rates to fund vital services because of the cuts elsewhere.
As such, it will be recommending an increase of the full amount available – which is a rise of 4.99%.
This is the maximum level a local authority can currently raise its Council Tax by without a public vote.
The rise, if approved, will be made up of a 1.99% general increase and a 3% increase to fund the city's struggling social care services.
The government has been coming under fire for effectively forcing councils to implement the maximum increase.
It is felt that by failing to properly fund social care and instead only allowing local authorities to increase the rates for local people – the problem is being forced on to those who are already struggling to get by during the pandemic."
One Stop Shops
Probably the most controversial part of the city council's budget plan is the idea of closing all of Liverpool's One Stop Shops.
There are currently eight One Stop Shops in the city, which provide a range of council services for residents under one roof – including help with Council Tax, benefits and other services.
A union representing council employees has claimed that the move could leave vulnerable residents with “nowhere to turn” as well as risking up to 40 council jobs.
But the authority says the closure of the one stop shops during the coronavirus pandemic has demonstrated the viability of phone and online-based facilities for city residents.
The council is also planning to introduce a more flexible community ‘pop-up’ service instead, alongside the council’s contact centre and website.
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A spokesperson said: "We’re always going to have some customers who prefer to speak to us face-to-face, who need a bit of extra help, who aren’t comfortable or able to do things online.
"With the proposed changes, we can still cater for them through ‘pop-up’ shops. A pop-up could be in their local library, at their nearest adult learning centre or even in their community centre. We’re looking at a whole range of locations. What we want is make it easier than ever for those residents across the whole city, who need face-to-face support, to get it – no matter where they live. Previously, there were some parts of the city our One Stop Shops didn’t touch. For everyone else, they will have access to the best possible online and phone service."
Riverside MP Kim Johnson has raised concerns about the planned closures, stating that the service is a “lifeline for residents who would otherwise struggle to access key services.”
Away from Council Tax and the One Stop Shops plan, the majority of savings will be found from deleting vacant posts and restructuring services.
The budget plan will now need to be signed off by the council's cabinet before it is voted on at March's full council budget meeting.