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City crisis team tackling budget; Finance experts will stay 'as long as it takes'.

Byline: BY BEN SCHOFIELD Daily Post Staff

CRISIS managers drafted in to help balance Liverpool City Council's budget will be there for "as long as it takes", a government minister said yesterday.

John Healey, the minister for local government, also said he expected "significant progress" on the Town Hall's finances within a year.

Teams of experts were sent in to Liverpool following devastating criticism of the council's money management by the Audit Commission and district auditor.

Liverpool City Council was named and shamed as the worst authority in the country in February.

Mr Healey said his department had sent an external panel of experts in to help "map out a plan for the future".

It is understood the team are working closely with Colin Hilton, the council's chief executive, and the finance department.

Mr Healey said they were there to make sure the council had the support needed to drag it off the bottom of the league table.

He said: "The council accepted the need for help and what's being put in place has been worked on with the leader and chief executive. They will be there as long as it takes. I would expect to see significant progress over the next year."

Mr Healey added: "It's largely of their own making. They knew they should have been building up the money to support Capital of Culture over the last four years and they haven't. What's really important is the depth and the extent of the finance problems because the council leadership has not got a grip of the finances over the last few years."

Cllr Keith Turner, Liverpool's executive member for finance, said he did not expect the external panel to be needed for long.

He said: "The message would be that everything is now stabilised. We have set a fully-balanced budget for the next year, as well as a mediumterm plan for the next three years.

"Labour are trying to portray a situation in which they claim the city is pounds 62m in debt when this is an absolute falsehood.

"But they never put forward budgets to show how they would handle things."

The Lib-Dem leadership was criticised by the Audit Commission for allowing a pounds 20m black hole to appear in the Culture Company's finances.

benschofield@dailypost.co.uk

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Publication:Daily Post (Liverpool, England)
Date:Apr 17, 2008
Words:386
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