Liverpool Council holds assets such as historic books and cut glass chandeliers worth millions of pounds.
As the local authority reels from the impact of covid-19 on its financial outlook, its draft statement of accounts has revealed that 19th century chandeliers that hang from the ceiling where members debate issues such as the cost of living at Liverpool Town Hall are worth around £1.3million. Additionally, the council is in possession of a £7.5 million book by John James Audubon first published between 1827 and 1838 called The Birds of America.
The book contains illustrations of a wide variety of birds from around the United States and is one of the council’s £35 million heritage assets. Many of the heritage properties managed by the City Council are on long-term loan from the National Museums of Liverpool.
The local authority’s draft statement of accounts for 2021/22 says it estimates losses at nearly £10m with additional coronavirus costs totaling £76m. All of these were not matched by support grants from the UK government.
Nearly £90million will need to be found in savings by Liverpool Council by 2026 according to its own estimates. The report says that in 2020/21 extra covid-19 related spending came in at £89m while revenue was £25m lower than forecast.
The statement of accounts, presented by Richard Arnold, Chief Accountant, explained in detail how Liverpool Council has only limited resources to devote to the upkeep of heritage assets and, therefore, the conservation and restoration of goods are undertaken on an as and when required basis and subject to available funds. Mr Arnold said that in March this year the council’s tangible fixed assets balance, which includes council buildings such as the Cunard Building, stood at around £2billion.
Asked by Cllr Ruth Bennett about asset losses, Maria Wilcox, chief financial officer, said that in situations where schools like Fazakerley High School become academies, these are simply taken off the books and not considered a loss because they are no longer within the local jurisdiction of the authority. Chief accountant Mr Arnold, holding up a copy of the draft statement, admitted ‘nobody reads’ the accounts and admitted there was a wider debate around why.
He suggested that they might be too long and complex and that an annual report might be the way to go for the board to showcase the work it has done.