Merseyside MPs keep pressure on government over funding cuts to councils 

Seven Merseyside MPs have spoken out in a parliamentary debate on huge cuts in government funding to local authorities on Merseyside since 2010. 

The debate was led by Wirral West MP Margaret Greenwood. Also taking part were fellow Wirral MPs Mick Whitley (Birkenhead) and Angela Eagle (Wallasey), while other MPs from the region including Maria Eagle, George Howarth, Paula Barker, Marie Rimmer and Kim Johnson also made speeches. 

Margaret Greenwood referred to analysis from the National Audit Office (NAO) on selected main revenue income sources for local authorities which shows that, in Wirral, in 2010, the council received just over £266 million in government funding, but by 2020 that figure was down to just over £40 million – a reduction of around 85%. 

The same NAO analysis shows that, even though income from other sources such as business rates compensated to a degree, it has come nowhere near to making up the shortfall created by Conservative government cuts, with Wirral Council receiving over £110 million less in overall annual income in 2020 than it did in 2010. 

Margaret Greenwood spoke about the very wide range of services that local authorities deliver and drew attention to the effect the cuts are having in Wirral. She spoke about proposals to close Woodchurch Leisure Centre and swimming pool, as well as libraries in Greasby, Hoylake, Irby, Pensby and Woodchurch. The proposals have been put forward because Wirral Council has been told by the government that it has to find savings of £20 million in its budget for 2022-23 or risk intervention. 

Margaret Greenwood MP said, “Local authorities are receiving a fraction of the money that they used to receive from central government. No wonder our communities are feeling it.  

“Woodchurch Leisure Centre and swimming pool are much loved by residents and groups, including Woodchurch Swimming Club, and serve thousands of people across Wirral.  

“Leisure centres and swimming pools are vital to people’s health, well-being and relaxation. It cannot be right that this important facility is at risk of closure as a result of cuts by central government.  

“Libraries are important for introducing children to reading, for enabling people to explore and enjoy books at all stages of life and to provide Internet access to those who do not have it at home. They also act as invaluable community hubs and help tackle social isolation.  

“The implications of the proposals that have been brought forward are extremely serious. Wirral Council, like so many others across Merseyside and the rest of the country, is having to make up for prolonged, brutal cuts by Conservative governments.” 

Speaking of government cuts to funding for Wirral Council, Birkenhead MP Mick Whitley said during the debate, “It is an ideologically motivated attack on the public sector, perpetrated by successive Conservative Chancellors, and it has devastated the lives of thousands of people who I represent. “Youth services have been decimated, benefits have been slashed and the basic support on which so many people rely has been stripped to the bone. Birkenhead is now bracing itself for a renewed onslaught on frontline services, and it is our youngest and most vulnerable who will be hit the hardest of all.” 

Wallasey MP Angela Eagle said, “The past 11 years of Conservative rule have seen an unrelenting assault on the budgets of local authorities, but that assault has been worse in some places than in others. 

“That has been a conscious choice made by successive Conservative governments in full knowledge of the consequences, which is why the phrase “levelling up” rings so hollow on the Wirral and Merseyside.” 

You can read the full transcript of the debate here: https://tinyurl.com/3v69en2y  

You can watch the debate in full here: https://tinyurl.com/2p9ckrbj  

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