Council launches #Knowsleytoughdecisions to highlight financial challenge

Published on: Wednesday, 24-February-2016

Since 2010, Government cuts have meant Knowsley Council has had to make savings of more than £75m. With further savings of around £46m to make over the  next four years the council is warning residents that more services will need to be reduced or even ceased all together. 

Today, the council is launching #KnowsleyToughDecisions, a campaign to ensure residents understand the reasons behind some of the difficult choices the council has made, and will have to make in the coming months and years.

In March the council will meet to set a ‘needs based’ budget for the coming year. Due to its depleted funds those services which are essential will be prioritised, which means that many other lower priority services or support may change, be reduced or stop altogether.

Cllr Andy Moorhead, Leader of Knowsley Council, is warning that many residents will feel the impact of the cuts and wants to ensure everyone understands the reasons behind these tough decisions. 

He is writing to all residents to explain the borough’s financial position and to explain the impact this is likely to have on services. 

He said: “As a result of Government funding cuts, the council’s budget to deliver services has reduced by £75 million since 2010. That’s £75 million of funding that has been taken away from Knowsley and from its communities. By 2020 the Government plans to withdraw almost all our grant funding completely. This means we will have to rely on money we can generate locally, through council tax and business rates. 

“The sad truth is that the funding we have left after the next round of cuts will not cover the cost of the services and support that we currently provide. I know we have talked to our residents about this in the past but I think it is crucially important that we engage with our communities so they understand that Government funding cuts to the council’s budget are actually cuts to us all, our communities and our area as a whole. 

If we all understand the position we find ourselves in, the better chance we all have to work together to manage these cuts in the coming years and ensure that the most vulnerable members of our society are protected.”  

To help combat the impact of the cuts to its funding, the council is considering different ways to deliver some services – this could mean they are reduced in frequency or that they are run and managed by a voluntary group or a social enterprise. 

Recently it was announced that responsibility for delivering leisure services in Knowsley will transfer to a new organisation – Volair. Although council owned and controlled, Volair is a separate entity to the council which means it has greater flexibility to be financially self-sufficient, maintaining services and ploughing any profits directly back into the specific services it controls. With such severe cuts it would be difficult for the council to do the same and invest in what would be classed as discretionary services (like leisure) at the expense of statutory key services like social care. 

Where alternative ways of delivering services can be found, these will be considered by the council. In some cases though, the cost of a service may mean that it cannot continue, or can only be done on a much reduced basis. 

Cllr Moorhead added: “The tough decisions facing Knowsley are getting tougher and in order to ensure we can continue the most essential services, such as social care for vulnerable children and adults, we have to accept there are some things which are ‘nice to have’ which must now sadly cease.

“In the coming months the council will aim to balance our finances by setting a ‘needs based’ budget –focusing first on the real needs of our community. This does mean that things will change and some services and support will stop. 

“Despite the tough decisions ahead, my colleagues and I will continue to talk to you and support you through these changes as best we can.”

The council will be using #KnowsleyToughDecisions to keep residents informed on its website, Facebook and Twitter accounts about some of the implications of the savings the council must make to its budget in the coming months.