Wirral council leader asks residents to join Q&A on ‘incredibly difficult’ budget

An online Q&A with the Wirral Council’s leader will allow people to find out more about how the authority is setting its budget this year.

Like all local authorities Wirral Council has a legal obligation to set a balanced budget for the next financial year.

Ahead of the budget consultation process, a budget gap of around £40m was reported for financial year 2021/22.

Over the last several months the council has been reviewing all the services it delivers. Some services are statutory – the council is legally obliged to provide them – while others are not but are provided because it is believed they are extremely valuable to the local community.

The Council is liaising with government on exceptional financial support that may be available to offset its pressures stemming from Covid-19, which are estimated to be around £25.5m across 2020/21 and 2021/22 following recent government announcements relating to local government funding, but this still leaves £16.5m that the Council will have to find to offset its general budget pressures in 2021/22

Because of the budget gap the council must find ways to cut costs and where possible raise additional income, including considering options which do under any other circumstances we would not otherwise choose to consider to ensure the council remains sustainable into the future.

Options being looked at range across the authority, from changes to bins collections, car parking charges and maintenance of parks and open spaces amongst many others. Major reductions in council “back office” functions are also being proposed.

Leader of Wirral Council, Cllr Janette Williamson (pictured), said, “If it was just up to me we would not be looking at most of the cuts being put forward in this consultation but the council’s financial situation is to a very great extent out of our hands.

“These options have been put forward by the council committees overseeing all the services involved, with all parties taking part. The new committee system has called on all political parties to step up to the plate.

“But while there is no disguising the fact that this year’s budget is going to be incredibly difficult I can guarantee to everyone who takes part in this consultation that your opinions matter to us.

“This Q&A is part of the wider consultation on the budget setting process and I would urge the people of Wirral to use every chance they can to find out more and have their say on the options before any final decisions are made.”

The online Q&A will take place Thursday 14th January at 3.15-3.45pm via Microsoft Teams online here.

A separate Q&A for young people will also be taking place Thursday 14th January at 4-4.30pm, again via Microsoft Teams.

The budget situation Wirral Council faces is largely a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, which has prevented the council from implementing the savings which were agreed last March. The Government has provided financial aid during the pandemic, but this has not covered all of the financial impact of continuing to provide services and support residents and businesses over the last nine months. In addition, there has been a significant loss of income to the council as a result of the lockdown and restrictions during the last nine months.

On Friday December 18, Wirral Council’s Policy and Resources Committee agreed to consult the public on options for savings and generating extra income being put forward.

These options, along with a survey to seek the public’s views on the options, is available at haveyoursay.wirral.gov.uk/

The survey has already seen a significant response from the public and continues until Friday 22 January.