To consider the report of the Director of Corporate Services.
Metro Mayor S Rotheram informed the LCR Combined Authority that the Overview and Scrutiny Committee on Wednesday 30 January and the Transport Committee on Thursday 31 January had, had the opportunity to scrutinise the budget presented for Members consideration today.
The Metro Mayor reported that this was the first time in which the Overview and Scrutiny Committee had, had the opportunity to scrutinise the budget. A summary of the discussions from both Committees had been circulated to Members of the LCR Combined Authority for their consideration.
The Metro Mayor reflected upon the achievement of signing the Devolution Agreement in 2015, which brought with it funding of £900million over a 30 year period. He also reported that the City Region had been hardest hit as a consequence of the austerity cuts. This had been confirmed by a recent report from Centre for Cities who identified that Liverpool was one of the worst cities to be affected by the cuts to local government funding over the past decade. However, the Metro Mayor signalled how devolution had provided the City Region with the opportunity to begin to turn the tide on austerity by bringing some much needed investment back into the City Region. As a consequence of continued hard work in partnership with the Leaders and Mayor of the constituent Local Authorities a further £189million in additional funding had been secured.
The Metro Mayor highlighted the following which had begun to make a real difference to people by:
· Creating 9,000 jobs and over 5,000 apprenticeships;
· Introducing half price travel for apprentices;
· Investing £6million to support the City Region’s high streets;
· Helping 800 families through the Households into Work programme;
· Investing £8.3million in cycling and walking routes; and
· Buying state of the art trains for the Merseyrail network.
The Metro Mayor explained that as Central Government provided no long-term dedicated funding to cover the costs of a Metro Mayor and a Combined Authority, there was no alternative option but to introduce a precept. Furthermore, he informed the Combined Authority that he wished there was an alternative to the introduction of a precept as he recognised the financial challenge many were facing across the Combined Authority.
The Metro Mayor referenced the CIPFA report and how this had identified that a long-term funding solution was required for the Combined Authority. As such work had been undertaken to ensure that any precept was kept as low as possible, this was achieved by reducing the costs of the Combined Authority and sharing services with Merseytravel. As a consequence of this, 95% of households would pay no more than 32p a week for the precept.
The Metro Mayor emphasised that this had not been an easy decision but was necessary for the City Region to continue to see the benefits of devolution and deliver the long-term vision for the area.
The Metro Mayor reported that the budget reflected his priorities and those of the Combined Authority Leaders and included the following:-
· A £1 fast tag for City Region residents;
· The infrastructure to provide ultra-fast broadband speeds for every part of the City Region;
· Proposals to re-regulate and take greater local control of the bus network;
· The delivery of the £50million Adult Education Budget;
· A new generation of Mersey Ferries;
· A new smart ticketing system to replace the Walrus Card;
· A Mayoral Transport Plan to ease congestion, improve air quality and increase connectivity;
· The introduction of a City Region apprenticeship portal; and
· The development of the Liverpool City Region Spatial Framework.
In conclusion, the Metro Mayor advised that delivering these projects would bring significant benefits to the City Region and would also mean securing additional funding. Furthermore, he assured Members that this budget would continue to create inclusive growth and invest in building a fairer, stronger and more prosperous City Region for everyone.
John Fogarty, Director of Corporate Services, presented the draft LCR Combined Authority budget to Members. He reported that the budget had been developed in an attempt to reduce and contain the costs for the taxpayer. However, it was recognised that the responsibility of the Mayoral Combined Authority had grown significantly and had also developed an ambitious programme of work which required resources to support its delivery. It was further reported that where possible services would be shared with Merseytravel to ensure costs were kept to a minimum.
In conclusion, the LCR Combined Authority was informed that the Transport Committee had reviewed the aspects of the transport budget and had supported the proposals in respect of the Tunnel Tolls.
RESOLVED – That:-
(i) the report be noted;
(ii) the Mayoral Budget as presented at Table 2 of this report be agreed ;
(iii) the funding costs associated with the exercise of Mayoral responsibilities as defined by the Combined Authorities (Finance) Order 2017 through the establishment of a Mayoral Precept in 2019/20 distributed between households on the basis set out in Table 1 of this report be agreed;
(iv) the Combined Authority general budget for 2019/20 which is summarised at Table 3 in the report now submitted be approved;
(v) a freeze in the transport levy for 2019/20 with the transport levy payable remaining at £95.4m and distributed in the manner set out in Table 4 of the report now submitted be approved;
(vi) the payment of operational grants to Merseytravel for £93.9m for general responsibilities and £23.74m in respect of the operation of the Mersey Tunnels be approved;
(vii) the recommendation from the Transport Committee in respect of the Tunnel Tolls at Table 5 of this report now submitted by approved;
(viii) a grant of £5.5m to Merseytravel to support the delivery of the strategic capital investment in transport on behalf of the Combined Authority be approved;
(ix) the planned release of £12m of Rail Reserves to support the Rolling Stock programme costs be approved;
(x) the allocation of the Transport Pot capital funding as detailed at paragraph 6.5-6.7 of the report now submitted be approved;
(xi) the establishment of a differential transport levy for Halton in 2019/20 and set the differential levy at £3.148m for 2019/20 be approved;
(xii) the Treasury Management Strategy 2019/20 incorporating the Minimum Revenue Provision and associated Treasury Limits and Prudential Indicators at Appendix 1 be approved; and
(xiii) the Capital Strategy at Appendix 3 be approved.
N.B. All Members presented voted in favour of recommendation (ii) and there were no abstentions.