Tolls for Mersey Tunnels and Council Tax levies for Liverpool city region-wide services are to be frozen but Metro Mayor Steve Rotheram warns Government will need to step up. Tony McDonough reports
Council Tax payers across Liverpool city region are to see the money they pay for transport and combined authority services frozen in 2021.
And Metro Mayor Steve Rotheram is also proposing a freeze on the Mersey Tunnel tolls for the financial year 2021/22. The Fast Tag for tunnel users will remain at £1 for every time they use the tunnel and £1.80 for those paying cash or contactless.
However, Mr Rotheram also warned that if the Government didn’t step up with extra cash for local authorities then “tough choices” might have to be made about public services in the near future.
If the proposal is accepted by the Liverpool City Region Combined Authority it will mean that when residents in Liverpool, Wirral, Sefton, Knowsley, St Helens and Halton get their council tax bills in March, the Metro Mayoral Precept will remain at £12.67 for a Band A property (£19.00 for a Band D property) for the second year in a row.
The Metro Mayoral Precept is a levy added to the overall council tax paid by Liverpool city region residents and used to fund city region-wide services for which the Metro Mayor is responsible.
The decision to freeze the precept is intended to avoid putting extra short-term financial pressure on residents who are struggling due to the COVID-19 pandemic and 95% of households in the city region will continue to pay no more than 32 pence a week.
Mr Rotheram said: “The pandemic has hit our region hard and I know many people will be entering the New Year after having seen their income vastly reduced, or sadly in some cases having lost their job, over the past 12 months.
“At the same time, the Combined Authority and our six local authorities’ have lost hundreds of millions of pounds through revenues and the cost of responding to the pandemic.
“Despite our strong representations to the Government, the funding to cover these shortfalls has not yet been forthcoming, so it seems likely that councils will have no choice but to increase council tax just to survive.
“In this context I – and the leaders of our six local authorities – do not think it would be right to add to the burden on household budgets by increasing the Metro Mayoral council tax precept or tunnel tolls at this time.
“However, it is vital that we continue to provide crucial city region-wide services, such as strategic transport, skills and economic development, if we are to emerge stronger from the pandemic in the coming year. Through careful management and use of reserves we are able to achieve this in our 2021-22 budget.”
But he added: “This does not mean there will not be tough choices to come in the near future. Unless the Government makes good on its promise to fund ‘whatever it takes’ to tackle COVID, our budgets – particularly for our transport services – will not be sustainable at this level in the long term.”