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Merseyside WP statement: Oppose the cuts and closure to One Stop Shop services

Liverpool council has recently approved a round of cuts to vital services in the city, including the closure of all physical One Stop Shops, with a promise to keep the services going through telephone and online services only.

These cuts were approved at the same time as a decision was made to raise an additional £9 million in revenue through an increase of 4.99% to the council tax rate, which will add an additional tax burden on working families of around £50 per year at a time when working people are facing increasing unemployment and underemployment, suppressed wages and fire-and-rehire policies as big corporations seek to recover lost profits from the lockdowns.

One Stop Shops support some of the most vulnerable members of the community to access vital public services, including supporting local people in accessing housing benefit, as well as fielding questions about council tax, parking, bins and environmental health. In 2019, they supported almost 160,000 local people, including providing critical assistance to those who cannot access support online, or who don’t speak English as a first language.

It is clear to see that turning this essential service into a purely virtual provision will only hurt those who need it most.

The service previously employed 99 people, but this was cut to 40 in October 2020 as the council closed half of the physical shops to make budget savings. These workers have now lost their jobs and a wealth of knowledge, expertise and relationships within their communities has gone with them.

The workers from One Stop Shop, represented by their union Unison, have put out a petition to try to save their service and their jobs. The petition makes the vital point that:

“Without our service local residents will all be expected to access services digitally, yet 73,000 local residents are aged over 65 and we know that many of these residents are not computer literate and have no access to broadband or the equipment needed.

“To make matters worse, a very high proportion of our regular customers are local residents who do not have English as a first language. One Stop Shops are a lifeline to these residents, who would otherwise struggle to access key services. We must not abandon local people in some of the most deprived areas of the UK during the most challenging period of our lifetime.”

The council has made savings of £768,000 through these cuts to One Stop Shop and, along with an increase to the council tax rate, it is also planning to raise an additional £200,000 through “additional fees and charges for highway services”, which will likely mean increased charges to working people driving in the city.

A total of £15 million in savings will be made through a mix of cutting the cost of services, reducing demand and increasing income. These include:

  • The sale of residential ground rents (£2 million).
  • Restructuring debt and changes to management of cash and assets (£1.5 million).
  • Additional fees and charges for highways services (£200,000).
  • Reviewing the operation and location of One Stop Shops (£768,000).
  • Managing demand for long-term adult social care packages (£1 million).
  • Reviewing supported accommodation for adults (£1.35 million).
  • Reshaping home care delivery (£416,000).

The council is using weasel words like ‘reviewing’ and ‘reshaping’ to try to hide the fact that what they are doing is cutting services that people need, and which people fund through their council taxes.

The council is increasing taxes and taking working people’s hard-earned money to fund its own mismanagement, and what do the working people get in return? Cuts, cuts and more cuts.

Funnily enough, the council seems to have plenty of cash to refurbish the M&S Arena, so those lucky enough to have money left over for entertainment will be able to experience a newly refurbished venue, although the Arena is only 13 years old and has a number of major corporate sponsors.

There’s been no word yet on whether these corporate sponsors have been asked to contribute funds towards the refurbishment or whether it is being funded solely through increased taxes and further austerity measures on working people, but we’re sure we can guess the answer!

Workers must unite, organise and fight back against these austerity measures. Get involved by joining the Workers Party of Britain today.