If Gordon Brown does not agree to this proposal then Liverpool City Council Tax payers will have to foot the bill on top of the usual payments for services.
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Jun 14 2007
by Larry Neild
LIVERPOOL’S two political leaders are to head a delegation to make a joint plea to Chancellor Gordon Brown to help plug the £22m gap in the city’s culture year funding.
Council leader Warren Bradley and Cllr Joe Anderson buried the hatchet following a stormy 24 hours during which the Labour leader sensationally resigned from the culture company board.
The fall-out over the funding of the city’s 2008 European Capital of Culture year continued in the town hall council chamber last night.
A special meeting of Liverpool City Council was called to debate a controversial funding package which would mean Liverpool raising the £22m by borrowing the money over five years.
The strategy will collapse if the government refuses to bend the rules to agree the funding formula.
So after political foes battled it out in a debate over the money shortage, Cllr Bradley threw down the gauntlet to the opposition leader.
He challenged him to sign a joint letter to Gordon Brown to help give the plea for help cross chamber support.
Cllr Anderson studied the letter and agreed to his name being placed alongside the leader’s, but on the basis that they ask for a meeting with the Chancellor and Treasury officials.
The move comes more than 20 years after the then city council sent a delegation, headed by John Hamilton and Derek Hatton, to make a plea to the Margaret Thatcher government to help bail out the city from a financial crisis.
Cllr Anderson said: “I have made my feelings known about the way the culture programme is being handled, but we all want to see our Capital of Culture year succeed.”
Cllr Bradley, who sprang the surprise letter during the heated funding debate, said: “I am delighted we can approach the Chancellor as a united front on behalf of the people of Liverpool.”
The plea to Mr Brown is not seeking extra Government cash. Culture Secretary Tessa Jowell made it clear in Liverpool last month that there would be no extra money from Westminster for Liverpool’s culture year.
An escape route, devised by resources director Phil Halsall, would involve the council borrowing the money and repaying it over five years. If money earned from the sale of brownfield sites is used it could mean there will be no impact on council taxpayers.
In the letter the two councillors say they are asking for help and support to complete the last phase of the culture year funding package.
They want permission to use a mechanism known as capitalis- ation, which means borrowing money and spending it as a one-off on the cultural programme.
Government rules normally mean that cash raised in this way cannot be used to pay for festivals and events, but the two councillors stress that an exception should be made.
They tell Mr Brown: “Put simply, future generations will all benefit from 2008 and therefore it feels unfair to expect the current generation to pay for the event in a single year.”
Earlier Labour councillors complained that the ruling Lib-Dems should have been putting money aside for the past four years to pay for the celebrations.
But Cllr Bradley insisted: “Capital of Culture will be our springboard for a bright future for our city.”