Five years ago, the world came to our city to celebrate our cultural renaissance. This Friday, Liverpool plays host to an unprecedented gathering of politicians, faith leaders and community champions. They come from England’s eight core cities – Manchester, Bristol, Leeds and Newcastle among them; and they come with a single purpose.

Together, our core cities represent 16 million of us, and generate almost a third of the country’s wealth (which, incidentally, is more than London generates). And, this week, they come to Liverpool to demand changes to the Government’s unfair distribution of local authority funding cuts.

SevenStreets says it’s up to us to all add our voices to the event – even if you can’t make it to the convention, you can sign a petition here. This feature isn’t about party politics. SevenStreets has no allegiance to any party. It’s about the survival of our city.

In four years of coalition government, Liverpool will see cuts of 52%. Huge, rapid, painful cuts that will affect every one of us, and put into question the very viability of local government. It will see the north once again losing out to the south.

Swimming pools, homeless shelters, libraries, care homes, culture. Don’t bank on any of them surviving, unscathed, over the next few years.

As Newcastle Council succinctly put it, when they analysed the cuts and plotted them on a map: “The similarity between the map of party political control and the map of relative cuts is remarkable…”

By 2014-15, the year before the next general election, Newcastle calculated that all but two of the top 25 “losers”, in terms of per capita council spending cuts per person, are Labour-controlled. Of the 25 “winners,” 24 are Tory-controlled.

It’s against this backdrop, and following a series of demonstrations in the city (such as the one staged by Public Sector Alliance and Merseyside Trades Union Council, pic above) that this week’s summit takes place.

After the summit, the Bishop of Liverpool (pic r) will lead a high-profile delegation of faith leaders to the Government to put forward the arguments for fairness. Let them speak with our blessing.

As a crew from BBC’s Politics Show wraps up in the corner of his Dale Street office, SevenStreets settles in for a chat, following an invitation from Mayor Anderson. He looks tired, and offers his hand. He has the softest handshake we’ve ever felt. We imagine how disarming this must have felt for Cameron, when the two met last week and diplomatically danced around each other. It must have reminded him of the Queen’s, we thought.

She’s another one you’d be unwise to mess with.

SS: Tell us about how you currently receive funding from central Government.

JA: Eighty percent of our funding comes from central government. Well, it comes from us, from our taxes. But if Government takes it away, we have to deal with it. And, for us, the cuts are so severe, and so disproportionate, that it can only affect the poorest. They’re the ones who’ll suffer.

Anderson’s talking about the Osborne’s preferred option, and current course – to levy cutbacks on Liverpool 300% greater than the national average (and a full 12,500% higher than the amount taken from the coffers of North Dorset’s council – Tory controlled, of course – which is just £2 a head worse off). A move Osborne says is ‘fair to all.’

SS: How will the proposed cuts manifest themselves in our city?

JA: To every person in the city it’s a £252 reduction, when the average in the country is just £62. Milton Keynes has just £38 worth of cuts.

SS: But doesn’t Liverpool get more in terms of grants?

JA: Yes, but that’s because we have more elderly, more unemployed, more children in care here. And we have to care for these people. That’s what any caring society should do. The cuts simply don’t take into account Liverpool’s social economic background. How is it fair that if, in a league table, Liverpool is the number one deprived city in the country (a fact even Newcastle Council agrees with) we’re also the worst affected in terms of the cuts?

SS: You must have seen the cuts coming down the track when the coalition came to power?

JA: We knew when we lost the school building programme, and the housing market renewal programme, that we were facing tough times ahead. Together they amounted to a loss of £350 million. I’ve tried to protect people as much as I could, by promoting economic growth and inward investment. But the Government cuts are something we can’t control. We have to look at the services we provide.

SS: And if we don’t? If we press the Hatton button, what happens then?

JA: If we continue and made no changes at all, in effect ran a deficit budget, in two years time we’d only have enough to pay for adult social care. Not street cleansing. Libraries. Anything.

SS: Of course, Cameron says that we all have to shoulder the deficit reduction equally, and that this is the fairest course of action.

JA: I’m not a deficit denier. I accept that it needs to be tackled. But as long as it’s fair. I don’t believe Cameron’s figures and I’ve asked him to bring someone up and interrogate ours. We’re not telling lies. I’m not cutting things to make some political point. I’d be mad to do that.

SS: What does it mean to you, personally, to oversee such swingeing cuts on our city’s services?

JA: It breaks my heart. I’m not a socialist who came into power to take away services. I came into this to make peoples’ lives better.

SS: So what’s your answer? How do we get out of this economic black hole?

JA: For a start, I believe we can do more to target those who are earning more; those at the very top end. I think we can call a halt to much of the spending in central Government. When I took over we made massive savings. We had a funding cut of £141m, and we lost 1600 staff. We had to manage our way though. That’s what leadership’s about.

SS: Is this Friday’s event a rallying call, or a serious attempt to derail the Government’s planned cuts?

JA: Faced with a Government that simply wasn’t listening, in one of my regular meetings with the Bishop of Liverpool (The Right Revd James Jones) we decided to invite faith leaders, community groups, unions and businesses to our city, to get the message to Downing Street that the cuts are unfair. And he was happy to lend his support.

SS: And what can we expect from the event?

JA: It’s an unprecedented chance for all eight cities to formulate a joint response and report, and to present our case. And it’s a chance for religious leaders to have a clearer understanding. The Government may think we’re lying, so maybe they’ll listen to them.

SS: What about us? Are we doing all we can?

JA: It frustrates me when, on business trips abroad, I try to show people what’s happening in the city, and all I see on the Echo’s website is splashes about guns, knives, crime and violence. Those stories damage us exactly when we need to be changing perceptions. And they don’t reflect the Liverpool I know, or the city that’s seeing £1.5 billion inward investment this year. We have a job to do, and we all need to pull together.

There’ s a petition I’d urge everyone to sign. We’re asking for a debate in parliament – because there has been none – about the funding formula used to distribute the funding. I want to get that looked at, to find a fairer way of distributing the spending cuts.

SS: And what of your much reported ‘riots’ comment?

JA: The civil unrest comment was taken out of context. It was part of a two page open letter to the Prime Minister. I was simply saying that if you continue to behave in a way that creates inequality and division, then it will create a rebellion. That may be in the form of more demonstration, occupy Liverpool, or any civil disobedience. That’s what happens. People will stand up.

SS: Do you think the public have grasped the severity of the situation we’re facing?

JA: No, I don’t think they have. Even though we’ve had cuts, things are going to get worse. This year we’re looking at £32 million of cuts. Next year over £40 million. And there is no waste. The next cuts will really hurt. Pepole need to wake up. Getting involved is one way. And we’ve other big things planned for this summer, big demonstrations…

SS: Do you see your job as something of a poisoned chalice?

JA: In a way, yes. I’d be lying if I didn’t say it’s causing endless sleepless nights, anxiety and stress. But I still have a smile on my face. I know that Liverpool is in a great place. It’s how we steer ourselves through the difficult next few years that matters.

Combat The Cuts
12 noon, 17th January
Echo Arena,
Kings Dock

13 Responses to “Joe Anderson: The Cuts Break My Heart”

  1. What a narrowminded comment there from Len. Yes, that’s how to support the city in its fight against injustice from Whitehall, read the entire feature and comment on a sentence about his handshake. Talk about blinkered.

  2. In the context of 16 million people outperforming London and not receiving anything like the share of spend and attention that London gets, I support a campaign of objection against disproportionate cuts and will sign this petition.

    However, in terms of Mr Anderson being unhappy at negative publicity for Liverpool I think he needs to give consideration to what he says and to who, and primarily when.

    Recently there was an amazing opportunity for the mayor to stand alongside the PM and promote Liverpool to the world as a business destination – while both of them did positively talk only about the international business event and didn’t scrap, unfortunately due to the timing of the letter penned only a few days earlier talking of civil unrest etc, the business event was completely overshadowed in terms of coverage by talk of this instead. Aside from a wasted opportunity, how can we say to the world what a great place Liverpool is to do business in if it seems that we’re on the brink? Timing!

    As for the messages themselves, while its good to finally start hearing him locally and nationally, he needs to get himself in front of reporters and cameras talking about things other than “the cuts”. The priority for most people in Liverpool (including any council staff who are potentially redundant) is jobs, so we need a much more positive face that we have at present.

  3. JD Moran

    I’d be interested to know what the Echo’s response would be to the following comment:

    “It frustrates me when, on business trips abroad, I try to show people what’s happening in the city, and all I see on the Echo’s website is splashes about guns, knives, crime and violence. Those stories damage us exactly when we need to be changing perceptions. And they don’t reflect the Liverpool I know, or the city that’s seeing £1.5 billion inward investment this year. We have a job to do, and we all need to pull together.”

  4. Paul Cook

    Sadly, Joe is symptomatic of the piss poor politicians we have these days. Little passion or conviction to improve working people’s lives. A few crocodile tears whilst implementing ConDem cuts. 30 plus years of neo-liberal economic policies bring us to this. These cuts will cause even more poverty to an area that has never really recovered from the destruction of manufacturing industry. A shiny new shopping centre and minimum wage retail jobs do not constitute proper regeneration.
    The cuts aren’t even really needed. If the super rich were forced to pay the tax they were legally required to pay and all loopholes closed, tax havens abolished etc., we’d be okay! The cuts are basically just an excuse to flog off what’s left of the public sector [NHS, Royal Mail, BBC etc] and destroy the Unions so the rich can gobble up even more cash.
    One more thing, Anderson should be sued under the Trades Description Act for calling himself a socialist. He’s far closer to Thatcher, Major and Cameron when it comes to policies.

  5. Well, should point out that I have many good mates at the Echo etc – as do all of us – but this sort of anonymous tit-for-tat pot-shot is rather silly and we always know. So whoever it is should probably save themselves the trouble – or put a name to their comments.

  6. Old Father Time

    The Government is awash with money. How else can you explain why it is proposing to spend £300 BILLION on renewing the UK’s useless nuclear weapons? The Government cannot possibly claim that there is a need to impose cuts, when it is unwilling to impose cuts in weapons threatening the existence of humanity. What is disturbing is that no one in this report, or in the responses, seems to be aware of this willingness to spend billions on rubbish. The politicians, in their desire to preserve their military weapon of choice, have apparently succeeded in rendering many people, including church leaders in particular, mute on the subject. The politicians think that huge spending on nuclear weapons is so popular that it will keep them in power, despite most voters being opposed to this spending when they are asked about it. Strange also that the politicians have not noticed that nuclear weapons are a vote loser in Scotland, where the weapons are based (rather than on the Thames). Remember that an accident, or terrorist action, in Scotland, or with the nuclear convoys going by road to Faslane from England, could wipe out the whole of the UK. In the context of cuts, you should all be making these points to the Government, otherwise you do not appear genuine in your concern.

  7. The response from the Echo employee is sadly typical of a once great newspaper which has lost its way. The days of it being the Voice of Merseyside are long gone. Apart from an ever dwindling number of notable exceptions, most of the reporters are not long qualified. Years ago you would have spent years grafting on the likes of the Widnes Weekly News before even being considered for a job on the Echo. Not any more. Day after day now we are subject to stories that wouldn’t have even made the pages of the Merseymart a decade ago. And what of the Merseymart? It can now found free inside on a Tuesday and is, I understand, written by volunteers. It is no better than a community newsletter dressed up as a newspaper. And have you seen the video reports? Sixth form students could film and edit better. North West Tonight and Granada Reports have nothing to worry about. It even makes Bay TV look good. The quality of the writing on this site shames the crap churned out by Joe Riley, with his red wine fuelled rants and Rex Makin, whose vindictive poison pen column some poor sod on the desk has to spend hours knocking into shape to make it look half rational.

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