ECHO understands a number of councilors are poised to leave the Labor Party in Liverpool over this week’s budget vote.
Sections of the ruling Labor group are unhappy with budget proposals – which include introducing a £40 annual fee for green waste collection.
The Labor leadership are also proposing a maximum council tax increase of 2.99% and measures to save nearly £2million from the adult welfare budget.
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The full council will meet on Tuesday night for its annual budget, where council members will be asked to vote in favor of Mayor Joanne Anderson and her cabinet’s agreed plans.
But a works council has already indicated that it is likely to vote against the proposed budget – and it may not be the only one.
Cllr Alan Gibbons, who represents Warbreck Township in Walton, said he was very concerned about the plans and “won’t vote for any cuts”.
He told ECHO he was particularly concerned about proposed cuts in adult welfare and also raised concerns about plans for off-council libraries, many of which are in North Liverpool.
The budget papers suggest a saving of £280,000 can be found through non-statutory library services, which are part of the review of external grants.
Cllr Gibbons said he asked about the move and its impact on libraries at a finance committee meeting this week but was not reassured.
He added: “I have been told that library management must bid from a larger pool of funding, which is subject to a competitive bidding process.
“Non-council libraries were sold to us in 2014 to maintain service. They should receive guaranteed funding and not be subject to the whims of grant bidding.”
Cllr Gibbons, who was elected to the council last year – after being inspired to join the party by former leader Jeremy Corbyn – said he intends to vote against the budget as it stands.
It is possible that such a move could result in Cllr Gibbons losing the Labor stick and being forced to sit as an independent councillor.
He told ECHO: “I’ve always said I wouldn’t vote for cuts, so I think it would make me a hypocrite if I did.
“In the end, maybe I will sit as an independent socialist city councilor. I don’t want that, but I’ve been against cuts for forty years and that’s not going to change.”
If Cllr Gibbons leaves the party, he may be joined by a handful of other councilors who also oppose what they see as a vote on budget cuts from the Conservative government.
There are many other Council members who are unhappy with the budgets – but not quite to the point of breaking the whip and voting against the budget.
One of those council members is Greenbank representative Laura Robertson-Collins, who has raised her objections to the proposed greenbin fees, which were debated in the finance committee this week.
She told ECHO: “I have consistently objected to the green bin fee as I think it will discourage recycling and send the wrong message after we declare a climate emergency.”
But she added, “I remain fully committed to supporting a legal budget and have no intention of breaking the stick.”
Sources have told ECHO that the Labor group in Council remains seriously divided between a number of different factions after a turbulent period in which former group leader and mayor Joe Anderson resigned after being arrested as part of a corruption investigation.
Liverpool Council will soon begin a consultation process that could result in the mayoral position being removed and a return to the leader and cabinet model that previously governed the city.
This could mean that divisions in the Labor group come to the fore ahead of the next round of elections in 2023 – as it will be the group of councilors who would choose the next city leader under this model.
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