I’ve written a lot about the challenges we face as a Council in managing the significant cuts to our budget from the current Conservative Government.
We recently consulted with you, our residents, on the latest round of cuts – £14.8m worth of savings over the next three years, to be exact.
I have said all along that these cuts are a reality – and we know they have a real impact on the lives of people living in our borough.
But cuts are not the full story here. In Knowsley, we’ve taken a wiser, long-term approach to our finances. We know that the cuts in funding will continue, so, as well as making savings where we can, we’ve also thought about the investments we can make now to reap long term benefits later.
At our Council meeting earlier this month, we agreed a number of investments as well as the savings which have to be found. Amidst the doom and gloom of savings cuts, it can be easy for the much more optimistic news of our investments to be lost.
So I’m really proud to say that this Council will be investing in several major projects over the coming years, all of which will change the face of our borough for the better – driving economic growth and bringing in additional investment to our area.
These include the Shakespeare North Playhouse for Prescot, the Halsnead Garden Village development, and improved retail and leisure facilities in our town centres.
We’re also supporting housing projects across the borough which will offer a range of new housing, from properties for first-time buyers to more expensive executive homes.
Many people will be really pleased to learn that we’re also prioritising an investment in assistive technology, which can make the difference in many cases between a vulnerable or older person being able to live independently at home or not. Those benefits are obvious – both for the person in question but also because they offer a much more cost-effective solution for local agencies like the Council.
Our investment in the newly established Education Commission is aimed at driving up standards in our local schools, giving our young people the very best start in life, and reaping longer term benefits for the local economy. We want to see a highly capable workforce maintaining Knowsley’s appeal as a place to do business.
We have a plan to raise around £300,000 a year from allowing advertising on some of our assets around the borough, and we will be using that extra income to tackle “hot spots” in our environment and manage the impact of the Government’s cuts.
And we are also announcing a £1m investment in a Social Sector Fund, which will be used over the next three years to help develop local organisations to carry out work which supports our communities.
I know there will be some who struggle to understand how we are able to invest money at the same time as making savings. But the future would be very bleak indeed if we weren’t investing and planning for the years ahead in this way.
Having navigated the borough through seven tricky years of relentless Government cuts (we will have saved £100m by 2020!), we’re absolutely committed not only to minimising their impact on our local communities, but also to coming out of the Government’s relentless and unnecessary austerity agenda in the strongest possible position.
We know that Knowsley’s goal must be to become self-sufficient, and these investments are the best way for us to achieve this.