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Liverpool City Council Funding

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 11:14 am on 29th October 2019.

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Photo of Jake Berry Jake Berry Minister of State (Cabinet Office), Minister of State (Cabinet Office) (jointly with the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government) 11:14 am, 29th October 2019

It will come as no surprise to the hon. Lady that I disagree with her. Lots of what I am talking about—the £900 million devolution deal, the £1 billion for the Gateway crossing, the £330 million from the local growth fund, and the £140 million upgrade of Lime Street station, which I am pleased about, because it was awful when I was growing up, and it is a fantastic building now—is a partnership. I hope that this debate can be about what Liverpool, the Government, the mayors and the metro Mayor can do together to drive the city. I know that that is the spirit in which the hon. Lady would wish me to respond to the debate.

Liverpool City Council has some challenges with funding, as well as other issues. It has £100 million of uncollected council tax arrears, which it should do something about, because that is very high from a national perspective. Its chief executive’s remuneration package is £461,823, which is absurd and not something that should be supported by the council, although it is, because it will have been voted on by the council. In fact, the council has 57 employees across Merseyside who earn more than £100,000 each. The age of austerity might be writ large over many parts of the council, but it has not yet reached the chief executive’s remuneration package, and there are things that the council could do, such as recover some of the £100 million of council tax arrears.

The partnership approach, however, which I hope Members across the House support, is part of the story of renaissance in Liverpool. I agree with the spokesman for Liverpool City Council who, earlier this year, said that Liverpool is undergoing a regeneration boom, with £14 billion of development schemes being delivered or in the pipeline. I pay tribute to the work of the city council in transforming the city, despite having maybe played its part in the decade of recovery from the global economic crash. Despite reductions in the amount of money the city has to spend, it is thriving and booming. People do not need to take my word for it, because anyone can visit the city—in fact, I recommend that they do. And we have not even talked about having the best football team in Europe, although that might be controversial; I do not know whether any Evertonians are present.

Why does all that matter? It matters because the Government are serious about delivering a northern powerhouse—a growing northern economy for all our constituents, including mine and yours, Sir George. Liverpool must be at the heart of that regeneration, and of the renewal of the north of England. That is why I am so pleased that the Prime Minister recently set out his agenda to level up all the powers of the metro Mayors—to ensure that Steve Rotheram has the same powers as Andy Burnham—so that we can drive Liverpool’s economy. I fully support that, and I hope and believe that Steve Rotheram, who has had discussions with me and with the Prime Minister about that agenda, will come out in support of it.

That is also why we have levelled up education funding. The hon. Member for Liverpool, West Derby, started the debate by talking about a school in his constituency, and I echo his tribute to all those working in our public services in Liverpool, Merseyside, the wider north-west and our entire country. That is why we are increasing funding for the NHS and the number of police on our streets. It is the poorest in our society, wherever they may be in England, who rely most heavily on the NHS and public services. That is why I applaud the Prime Minister’s ambition to level up.