MINISTERS were accused of having “contempt” for Liverpool last night after inflicting savage new spending cuts on the city – despite a pledge not to do so.
The city council’s overall ‘spending power’ will be slashed by an extra 1.7% next year and a further 6.2% in 2014-15.
The total blow appears to be around £45m on the chosen measure of ‘spending power’, which includes council tax and other income, rather than simply government grants.
The cuts across Merseyside are on the scale of the first assault on local council budgets – back in late 2010 – which led to painful cuts in services.
And they were announced despite an earlier pledge to stabilise budgets for 2013-14, because of the uncertainties surrounding a complicated shake-up of business rates.
Eric Pickles, the Communities Secretary, attempted to conceal the scale of the cuts by refusing to release the figures for 2014-15, but the Post was able to obtain them form other sources.
And, in the Commons, Mr Pickles turned on Liverpool Mayor Joe Anderson, when he attacked those council leaders who “have shamefully predicted riots on the streets”.
He insisted: “Nostradamus needn’t worry. Concerns that the poorest councils, or those in the North, would suffer disproportionately are well wide of the mark.”
But Mr Anderson insisted: “Liverpool is the most badly hit city in the country, with cuts amounting to £252 per person – four times the national average.”
And, in the chamber, Riverside MP Louise Ellman angrily denounced the settlement, accusing Mr Pickles of showing “contempt for the people of Liverpool”.
The Labour MP described the future funding as an “added blow to a city already reeling from cuts to local public services as a consequence of his government’s decisions”.
The figures, seen by the Post, reveal similar slashing of spending power in Wirral (down 2.4% and 4.9%), Knowsley (down 1.7% and 6.1%), Sefton (down 2.2% and 4.6%) and St Helens (down 1.4% and 5.1%).
In a letter to David Cameron last week, Mayor Anderson warned that further cuts threatened a repeat of the riots in the 2011 “summer of discontent”.
Some leaders have set out a grim future when local councils will have no money to do anything other than provide care for the vulnerable and collect the weekly rubbish.
But Mr Pickles insisted councils must “keep doing their bit” to plug the gaping hole in Britain’s finances - and challenged councils to freeze council tax next year.
Pointing to £450m set aside to help town halls hold down bills, he told MPs: “All councils have a moral duty to freeze council tax.”