Central government funding to Wirral Council has dropped by around 85% between 2010 and 2020. Income from other sources such as business rates has compensated to a degree, but the overall revenue of the council was still 25% lower in 2020 than it was in 2010.
For the financial year 2010/11, Wirral Council income from central government, council tax and rates was £450m, adjusted for inflation. Ten years later for the financial year 2020/21, and again adjusted for inflation, Wirral Council income was £338m – a huge drop in annual income of £112m.
This means that Wirral Council had the impossible task of balancing its books whilst maintaining services, such as libraries and sports facilities.
Wirral Council is far from unique with regards to cuts in income from central government and many local authorities are faced with the very same conundrum regarding maintaining services. Bristol needs to find savings of £23m, Liverpool and Lancashire each £43m, Thurrock in Essex £34m, Nottingham £28m – the list goes on.
On Saturday there was a march and rally against the council’s proposed cuts to services organised by a broad coalition called Wirral Needs Action (WNA) along with Defend THe NHS.
A spokesperson for WNA said after the event on Saturday, “This march and rally was a brilliant success, bearing in mind that it was called and organised only a few weeks ago.
“Up to 500 people from many campaign groups including Defend the NHS, Libraries Against Closure, Golf clubs, Leisure Centres and Swimming Pools Against Closure, Environmental groups, Wirral XR, Black Lives Matter, local Trade Unions, Wirral TUC, Merseyside Stop the War and Merseyside Pensioners Asscociation assembled in Hamilton Square with banners and homemade placards.
“We were entertained by the Liverpool Socialist Singers. The march was a lively, noisy affair through Birkenhead with local residents cheering on their doorsteps and cars tooting their horns.”
Speakers at the rally talked about their opposition to the threatened cuts and how, if implemented, would adversely affect our quality of life. Speakers from Defend the NHS talked about the fight to save the NHS from privatisation as well as opposition to the Health and Care Bill.
Councillor Jo Bird said that the threatened cuts were unnecessary and that “another Wirral is possible.”
Wirral Needs Action said, “This campaign has been a great success and is just the beginning. The Council must listen to the real concerns of the people of Wirral. The marchers shouted loud and clear through Birkenhead ‘No cuts to our services’.”
Wirral Needs Action (WNA) re-stated its position:
- A core belief in public service provision run and maintained by local councils for local people
- Opposition to the break-up and privatisation of the NHS
- WNA rejects any notion of a ‘hierarchy of cuts’. We oppose all cuts to our essential services.
- Essential services are all those services that enhance the quality of life, enable adults and children to grow both physically and emotionally, enjoy leisure time, keep fit and mentally healthy.
- No hierarchy of cuts. Every public facility is there for a reason, and that is to enhance the quality of life of Wirral’s residents. Every community not only needs its libraries, leisure centres, swimming pools, etc., it also needs them to be properly maintained and invested in.
At a full council meeting yesterday, Monday 28 February, councillors voted in favour of a £20m cuts plan. The budget was passed by 52 votes to 11 with Labour and Conservatives voting for the plan and the Greens and Lib Dems voting against.