Will our crown jewels be sold to pay for the event?
Labour MPs vow to fight for more culture cash
LIVERPOOL’S Labour MPs have pledged to do all they can to help the city council plug a £20m black hole in next year’s Capital of Culture finances.
It comes after four of the city’s five MPs joined Labour opposition leader Joe Anderson in meeting council leader Warren Bradley yesterday afternoon to discuss how to solve the problem.
The city council now hopes to convince the Government to allow it to raise the required money by selling off land and buildings or allow it to re- mortgage council property –buildings, under a process known as capitalisation.
Cllr Bradley and council chief executive Colin Hilton have met ministers and government officials on numerous occasions to lobby for the right to break current financial rules.
But so far the Government has not agreed to budge.
It is understood the MPs’ support could prove vital in convincing the Government to allow the council to break fiscal rules that do not allow capital sales to be used for ongoing revenue expenses.
Last night, after the meeting, Liverpool Garston MP Maria Eagle said: “It was useful, I think. In the sense that it’s quite clear that Capital of Culture is going ahead full strength.
“They are preparing a great programme, I think Phil Redmond and Bryan Gray are getting to grips that side of things. It’s apparent, and the council have admitted it, that they have some financial difficulties.”
Ms, Eagle, who is justice minister, said the MPs asked detailed questions about the state of the finances.
“We want to make sure Capital of Culture and 2008 is a great success for the city, it needs to be for the city and for the country.”
“We are going to do what we can to help on this problem that they have got themselves into.
She said rules were there for a reason, so careful consideration would have to be given to the matter.
Riverside MP Louise Ellman, Walton MP Peter Kilfoyle, and Wavertree MP Jane Kennedy were also present at the meeting.
Cllr Anderson said: “The MPs and I have committed ourselves to do everything we can. From my point of view I was glad that the council admitted that it had not prepared its funding for 2008.
“We can either cancel 2008, which is not a course of action I suggest we take.
“Therefore, I will be trying to support the council by persuading the Government to get ourselves out of this mess.”
A council spokesman said: “The meeting was a very positive discussion about how the city’s MPs could assist the council in resolving funding issues for the next financial year.
“It was a very fruitful and useful discussion and a further meeting is planned in January.”