An emergency motion supporting the mayor’s plea for increased powers regarding far-right demonstrations in Liverpool was passed by the city council last night.
In the final meeting of the full council before the local elections in May, councillors gathered to vote on the upcoming budget proposals for the next financial year, and to decide whether or not to support Mayor Joe Anderson’s protest petition to the Home Secretary.
The council passed the 2016/17 budget by a vote of 76 – 3, which will see council taxes in the city rise by 3.99% – the highest possible margin without triggering a referendum.
Elsewhere, the emergency motion passed unanimously by the council was in response to Saturday’s violent scenes outside St George’s Hall following the arrival of the North West Infidels group for a demonstration in Liverpool.
Councillors overwhelmingly backed calls by the mayor for him to be given increased powers by the Home Secretary to ban ‘hate’ marches in the city.
Police and Crime Commissioner, Jane Kennedy, told the council police only have the ability to put restrictions on a demonstration and there is no provision to ban a static protest. However, it is possible to ban all marches in an area for three months.
Commissioner Kennedy added that this would mean “even Merseyside scouts could not parade on St George’s Day if such a ban were applied”.
An amendment proposed by Liberal Democrat Councillor Richard Kemp, calling for the powers to be given to the Police and Crimes Commissioner, was defeated.
Labour Mayor Anderson stated: “If this amendment came from anybody else I would probably support it, but Kemp will look at any opportunity to do something that’s different than what we are proposing.”
A minor amendment suggested by Liberal Councillor Steve Radford was accepted, which called for the motion to include all forms of ‘hate’ demonstration, not just those that are racially-motivated.
On financial matters, Mayor Anderson stressed how well the city had been coping since the introduction of the budget plan two years ago, which forced the council to make cuts of £173million over a three-year period.
Anderson highlighted how his administration had made savings of £55million and £53million in the first two years respectively, with a further £48million to be saved this year.
He said: “The budget takes into account that under this administration has brought £12million extra revenue into our city, but that money cannot be used to create more growth or to provide opportunities, because it’s actually being used to prop up services being attacked and decimated by this government.
“We have massive challenges ahead but we also have massive opportunities and we need to exploit them.”
The Green Party put forward an amendment to the budget, calling for council tax to be raised by 6%, rather than the 3.99% put forward by the administration, which would force a referendum.
Green Party Councillor Tom Crone said: “That would be able to fund 84,100 hours of home care, keeping older residents out of costly residential care or hospital. It would also allow us to allocate an extra £1million to early intervention work with children and young people, to help stop them going into care and added to the already serve budget pressures there.”
However, this motion was rejected, with the majority Labour councillors citing how holding a referendum would cost the city £500,000.
Mayor Anderson went as far as to question why the proposals even came to a motion, as they did not calculate for the introduction of the Living Wage and said: “I’m not supporting the amendment because it’s stupid – it’s cloud cuckoo land stuff.”
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