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Front line takes a hit as Liverpool's cuts are laid out; CUTS CRISIS.

Byline: Marc Waddington

CUTS to libraries, leisure centres, children's centres and cultural events were laid bare yesterday as Liverpool Council announced its proposals for how to drag the city out of the financial mire of government spending cuts.

Council tax bills for city households were frozen after an extra pay-out from Whitehall of around pounds 1.5m in the form of a Council Tax Freeze Grant - the equivalent of a 2.5% rise.

Four Surestart children's centres out of 26 around the city - West Derby, Hunts Cross, Childwall and Allerton - face closure in a bid to cope with a pounds 12m reduction in grants given for early years learning - a cut of 50% of the budget.

At the same time, a 28% cut in library and leisure centre budgets must be shouldered in what the council said was a bid to protect other services such as homeless hostels, mental health services and short breaks for disabled children.

The council is still looking at whether to close some outright, or whether it can limit opening hours across the board as it tries to scratch together a pounds 500,000 cut.

But councillors warned the hard work was only just beginning, given how, in the next financial year, the required level of savings will rise to pounds 1.9m.

The leisure budget will be squeezed by pounds 1.6m this year and pounds 2.7m next year.

Youth services cuts of pounds 5.5m - equivalent to 28% of their budget - will see some of their responsibilities transferred to housing associations, the police, faith groups and residents' associations.

Labour council leader Joe Anderson said because lengthy consultation was needed on some cuts, savings would not be immediately effective because there would still be the cost of running services until the public had its say over what it wanted sacrificed or saved.

But, when asked by the Daily Post what represented the most painful cuts to impose both for the council and the public, he said the loss of up to 1,500 jobs was the most difficult pill to swallow.

He added: "The public sector in this city is a big employer and there is no doubt the council is going to have to reduce its workforce. We are trying to work with the trade unions in a really positive way, which our staff accept. your EMAIL us @dailypost.or write 48, Old Liverpool "Having to make people redundant is a really difficult process, but we estimate we will be able to reduce the figure of 1,500 to possibly around 1,200, maybe less.

"Libraries and leisure centres and youth services will also be affected by large reductions.

It may be libraries in some areas only open three days a week and leisure centres may have opening hours reduced."

views letters co.uk, PO Box Street, L69 3EB The council must find pounds 91m of savings this year. One of the challenges facing Liverpool, unlike councils in more affluent areas, is it received specific funding for being the poorest city in the country through the area-based grant, which has come to an end.

Lib-Dems leader Warren Bradley said: "Although there will be reductions, we will attempt to retain services for people who most need them."

While some arts and cultural spending will be protected, including the Mathew Street festival, the River Festival, new museum and Chinese New Year, the hugely popular Lord Mayor's parade and Performing Arts festivals will cease.

Liberal leader Steve Radford said all the groups working together was "a response to a desperate situation where Liverpool lost disproportionately more than any other authority in the UK".

He said: "A low-paid, low-wage economy - the effect on the city is profound. Working together shows the maturity of political parties which were often at loggerheads in the past."

Green leader Sarah Jennings said the council was hamstrung by the speed at which the cuts needed to be decided.

She added: "Cllr Anderson and (deputy leader) Paul Brant have tried to stress if we could just have a little longer to implement this stuff, it would make it better." But local government secretary Eric Pickles, reacting to the Liverpool cuts, said the council had not done enough.

He added: "The action that the council is taking to reduce costs at the centre is welcome, but they do not go far enough."

* OPINION: Page 17 Minister protest PROTESTERS against spending cuts rallied outside a city gallery where a government minister opened an exhibition last night.

Culture minister Ed Vaizey unveiled 60 paintings from the private Schorr Collection, to go on show at the Walker Art Gallery.

A Collector's Eye: Cranach to Pisarro is the first time so many artworks from the collection, around 15%, have been seen together in a single exhibition.

your views EMAIL us at letters @dailypost.co.uk, or write to PO Box 48, Old Hall Street, Liverpool L69 3EB

CAPTION(S):

Demonstrators outside The Walker Art Gallery during a visit by Culture Minister Ed Vaizey Picture: PAUL HEAPS Radford, chief executive Ged Fitzgerald, Picture: COLIN LANE/ tmcl170211council-7 Presenting a united front at Liverpool town hall were, from left, Cllr Steve Cllr Joe Anderson, Cllr Paul Brant, Cllr Warren Bradley and Cllr Sarah Jennings
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Publication:Daily Post (Liverpool, England)
Date:Feb 18, 2011
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