But it's luxury motors for city bosses - including suspended Ged Fitzgerald
THOUSANDS of Liverpool households will have to find more than £100 extra a year in Council Tax if Mayor Joe Anderson and city councillors enforce a maximum 5.99 percent hike proposed by the Government yesterday.
News of the plan, which will see councils breaking through the previously capped annual rate without the need to hold local referendums, came on the day that details emerged of how luxury cars were being driven by senior Liverpool City Council officers, including its suspended chief executive, Ged Fitzgerald, at the public's expense.
Liverpool Mayor Joe Anderson has warned about the impact of Government cuts on the city budget, but the amounts spent on leasing expensive cars, plus the prospect of residents in Band D properties having to cough up an extra £105, will make bleak Christmas week reading for many families.
The deputy leader of the Lib Dem "gang of four" in Liverpool, Andrew Makinson, used Freedom of Information requests to establish the amount the council is paying to lease luxury cars for senior officers.
In the FOI responses, the city council confirmed that Chief Executive Ged Fitzgerald has retained use of his council-funded luxury car during his four months of “voluntarily remaining off work” and would still have use of the vehicle during his suspension while he remains on police bail.
Meanwhile, says Cllr Makinson, it has been revealed that since 2012 the council has doubled the number of luxury car leases - from two to four.
The Lib Dems said the information was uncovered after Andrew Makinson, was forced to make a FOI request after council officials refused to answer his questions directly.
In 2012 it was revealed that Council Tax-payers were providing Chief Executive Ged Fitzgerald with a Mercedes E350, £41,465.38 if bought outright. Regeneration Director Nick Kavanagh was similarly provided with a BMW 530i M Sport, valued at £45,713.12.
Since then Cllr Makinson has discovered that these cars have been replaced with a brand new Jaguar XF Sports Saloon, and a Mercedes C250, while additional cars have also been leased for Finance Director Becky Hellard (a BMW 320d efficient dynamics estate) and Director of Community Services Ron Odunaiya (a BMW i3 Range extender).
The council pays annual lease charges of between £3,720 and £5,790 for the cars, so in total just over £20,000.
Meanwhile, in his statement in the House of Commons, Local Communities Minister Sajid Javid said: “We all want to ease growing pressure on local government services, but I am sure that none of us wants to see hard working taxpayers saddled with ever higher bills. This settlement needs to strike a balance between those two aims, giving councils the ability to increase their core Council Tax requirement by an additional 1 percent without a local referendum, bringing the core principle in line with inflation.”
During the debate Liverpool Riverside MP Louise Ellman said 30 percent of Liverpool’s children are now in poverty, and the council is set to lose 68 percent of its budget by 2020.
“What is the Secretary of State going to do about the looming crisis in children’s social care? It did not even get a mention in his statement,” she asked.
Javid replied: “Based on what I have shared today, and if Parliament votes through the draft settlement, there will be an £8.7 million increase in her local authority’s core spending power, which it can decide to use as it wishes.”
Javid also said local authorities will be able to increase planning fees by 20 percent if they commit to investing the additional income in their planning services.
He also included for the first time measures to enable metro mayors in combined authorities, such as Steve Rotheram in the Liverpool City Region, to set a budget to cover their offices and running costs. That figure will be divided among the five councils on a pro rata basis and will appear as a new, extra levy on Council Tax bills.
“I am sure that voters will be watching closely, as I will, to ensure that that freedom is not abused,” said Javid.