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Mean deals for councils; Merseyside gets lowest funding increases.

Byline: ANDY KELLY Chief Reporter

TOWN Halls across Merseyside were yesterday handed some of the country's lowest increases in Government funding.

Liverpool's Lib-Dem-led council said it had been ``kicked in the teeth'' by its 4% increase compared to the average of 5. 6%.

Wirral and Sefton fared no better, also securing just 4% more from Whitehall, while Knowsley got just 4. 1% and St Helens 4. 4%.

There was also bad news for Merseyside police and fire services with increases of just 3. 7% and 2. 6% respectively.

There was better news in Cheshire where an increase of 6% (pounds 23. 1m) was higher than the national average for the county council.

Warrington will receive a 5. 8% increase, worth pounds 7. 9m, and Halton an extra 4. 8%, worth pounds 5. 4m.

Cheshire Fire Service also fared well with an extra 6. 3% (pounds 1m) but the police settlement matched that of Merseyside at just 3. 7% (pounds 4m).

Back in Liverpool, the situation could have been even worse - the Government thinks it needs just an extra 3. 3%, but no local authority can receive less than 4% under current rules.

Council leader Mike Storey said: ``This is a real kick in the teeth for Liverpool when you consider the transformation in council services that has taken place in recent years.

``We face a difficult challenge to try and ensure we don't pass on a council tax rise as a result of the Government's meanness. ''

Liverpool's 4% increase was in sharp contrast to the likes of Manchester (6. 2%), Birmingham (6. 8%) and Newcastle (6. 1%).

Nevertheless Labour leader Joe Anderson praised the city's settlement.

``A 4% rise is double the rate of inflation and it's excellent news for Liverpool, '' he said.

Wirral Labour council leader Steve Foulkes described the pounds 9. 2m extra as ``not brilliant''.

``We've been predicting around that figure but it leaves us with considerable work to do, ' he said.

But he ruled out major council tax rises in the borough.

Sefton's Lib Dem council leader Tony Robertson said he had not had time to digest the figures, but added they will ``create a hurdle''for council spending plans. Knowsley's increase of 4. 1% (pounds 7. 4m) for 2005/6 also got a less than enthusiastic response.

Labour council leader Ron Round said: ``Unfortunately, the way in which this money will be shared out does not recognise Knowsley's circumstances.

``Funding is again being redirected from areas such as Knowsley to the South East. ''

Knowsley was particularly disappointed with its education grant as it is hoping to invest heavily in its schools.

Merseyside Police Authority meanwhile was angered by the `floor' or minimum increase of 3. 75%.

MPA chair Cllr Bill Weightman said: ``Our biggest priority is keeping bobbies on the beat, but we will have to look at making cuts elsewhere. ''
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Publication:Daily Post (Liverpool, England)
Date:Dec 3, 2004
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