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I thank my hon. Friend and neighbour for his kind words, and I echo his comments about our friend, Luciana Berger. He is absolutely right about the impact of universal credit and, before that, other changes—for example, the reductions in disability benefits and the introduction of the bedroom tax. That combination of factors has been significant in contributing to the challenges that the city council faces.
I am proud that Liverpool City Council has managed to keep delivering vital services and has done its best to protect some of the most vulnerable people, but the city now faces a budget gap that the council estimates to be £57 million, and it has just £16 million left in the reserves. Something surely has to give. The city council, the Members of Parliament and the entire city are united in saying to the Government that we want a fairer funding settlement that genuinely reflects the real levels of need in the local community. My concern is that if this is not put in place, we risk losing crucial services that our most vulnerable constituents rely on every day.
I hope that the Minister can give us some hope that there is light at the end of the tunnel. I particularly hope that he can address the two specific requests for a meeting and for the Government to consider a royal commission on local government funding, because many of the issues faced by my constituents in Liverpool are faced by other communities across Merseyside, across the north-west and, indeed, across the country.