2013 really has been a year of ups and downs for Liverpool and I would like to take a moment to reflect on what we’ve all been through.
We have had a year of tremendous challenges as our City Council was once again plunged into turmoil by forces way beyond its control. Last year, like the previous two, was overshadowed by the budget and the cuts that we have been forced to make.
I am very proud of how the City reacted to the challenge of having to deal with the worst financial settlements we have ever faced. My Cabinet team, the Labour Group of Councillors and the people of our City worked together to overcome a challenge we should never have been facing.
Over each of the last three years we have been forced to make savings of £173 million, with the worst still to come. That is why I have taken the decision, knowing that we still have to make savings of £156 million, to set a budget in March that will cover the next three years.
I believe this will give, as far as we can, certainty to the workforce, Trade Unions, partners and, most importantly, you the people we serve.
It is an extremely difficult situation to have to deal with such severe cuts from the Government but I would like to pay tribute to all the staff of the Council, the Trade Unions and the Liberal Group on the Council who have worked so hard in almost impossible circumstances. I would especially like to thank the public who continue to show us understanding and support during these difficult times.
Throughout difficult times, our values of decency and compassion have always been at the forefront to help guide us in making tough decisions. Our aim was to make these unjustifiable cuts as fair as we possibly could. Of course, making further cuts is going to be hard – but at a time when the most vulnerable people in our communities face even tougher times, the City Council will continue to stand up for them, despite our dramatically reduced funding.
The funding we have put into Credit Unions and Food Banks have helped a little, as did our campaign to highlight the injustice of the Bedroom Tax and Welfare Reforms. I’m proud that we have stuck together as a City and have spoken with one voice in defence of the most vulnerable people of Liverpool.
Understandably people across the City are worried about what is going to happen to the services they rely on. We will make ourselves absolutely accountable to them, so will continue to provide information on the costs of services we provide and be completely transparent and open about what funding we have by way of grants.
There will be no hidden plans, no secret reports; the decisions we have to make will be difficult and will have far reaching implications on the future of council services. It is important the public are fully informed about the decisions we are being forced to make and the information will be available for anybody who wants it. Through our website, Liverpool Express and social media we have made available information on our income and our spending. All facts and figures are available on the site and I would urge you to look, digest and understand the financial predicament that our City has been forced into by a coalition Government that has bludgeoned us year after year.
All our discussions and decisions will be open and transparent; we have absolutely nothing to hide. The absurdity of claims made by the Government that we are lying is beyond belief. The idea that I would make cuts because I want to damage our City and its people is a disgusting and extremely offensive desperate attempt to hide the real truth that the North suffers while most of the South prospers. Once again I say, we are not asking for any favouritism just simply fairness.
As we make decisions I need you to understand that some of the things we will have to do will upset communities, groups, neighbourhoods and individuals who will feel let down and angry. I want to assure you that every decision will be carefully looked at before action is taken. Every action taken will be solely in the interests of the whole City and in the fairest possible way.
I serve as Mayor to you the people, who rely on the council’s services; I am first and foremost a proud member of this Community and City. Within my role, I am Mayor of Liverpool first and a Labour politician second. I would never play politics with the City I love and its future. I said at the time of my election as Leader of the Council, the City needs steering through difficult times and I promise I will lead with the same passion and commitment through tough times as I will through the good. And I can ensure you; there will be a lot of good.
2014 will mark the 25th Anniversary of the Hillsborough disaster. Over years we have been reminded how we achieve great things when we all stand together. This year I am sure that Anfield will be packed once again, as our City remembers the victims and families, tinged with sadness at the loss of John Glover and Anne Williams. There is still some way to go before justice is seen to be done but we will support each other until then and beyond.
Liverpool is about to embark on one of the most exciting periods in its history. The opportunities we have in Liverpool are absolutely spectacular. Over the last couple of years we have shown that we are an outward looking, forward thinking and massively ambitious City. We are an innovative City and we are a creative City.
I am pleased that we are now a City which has a council that takes business seriously. Our businesses, existing and new, will drive our local economy; create growth, opportunities and jobs for our residents. Finally, after years of frustration with the City Council, Liverpool businesses tell me they finally feel they have a council they can work with.
I’ve worked hard to provide a new and refreshing approach to business and to make sure we really are a can-do council that is working hand-in-hand with businesses to deliver the growth we desperately need.
We have led the way in engaging Liverpool with the national and international business world through our Embassy and the “Its Liverpool” campaign. I want to challenge the council to keep thinking big and bold in the years to come.
People can now see a city which hasn’t spent the last year feeling sorry for itself, but has confidently and aggressively promoted itself as a place to come and invest. We are seeing the fruit of that approach today as Liverpool prepares itself to welcome the International Festival of Business in June. This is a major coup for the city and will see over 200,000 people, including leading entrepreneurs from around the world, arrive in Liverpool for six weeks. There will be plenty of events during the IFB and I am particularly looking forward to the Mayor conference which will consist of over 150 Mayors from Cities all over the world all coming together in Liverpool. This is another great opportunity for our City to showcase itself to the world.
I promise you that the events we have planned for this year will surpass anything we have ever done in this City before and will put Liverpool in the spotlight once again. There will be millions of people who will visit our City during 2014 and we will continue to guarantee them a warm welcome.
Of course the year to come will be challenging, of that I have no doubt, but I am determined to rise to that challenge as we have done in previous years. As we move from a City in recession towards a City which is growing again, Liverpool needs to move up a gear and grab some of the huge opportunities which lie before it. We need to become more self-reliant and do things differently if we are to rightly claim to be a global City.
Although some developments in the City may have been slower than we hoped due to the recession, we are better placed than most cities, with near £1 billion being spent on construction projects in 2014.
Liverpool is a hugely ambitious city and we have huge opportunities ahead of us. My promise to you is that the City, under my leadership, will always be a ‘can do’ City. We have made a very good start and have achieved so much already but it’s barely a drop in the ocean compared to what we want – and need – to achieve in the future. I believe that Liverpool is now at a pivotal moment in its 800 year history as we begin to shape its future and choose its destiny.
I am determined to lead Liverpool into that future. We have made a good start but there is still plenty more to do.
I am honoured and privileged to be your Mayor and lead our City. I am excited every day to come to work because, despite the challenges, there is no greater privilege than to lead this great City and I look forward to working to deliver our vision and ambitions.
We will be judged on what we achieve and I am very excited about what that will be.
Happy New Year.