Wirral Councillor criticises ‘zombie government’ as energy prices soar

Wirral Council held an urgent meeting to discuss how to help residents through the cost of living crisis.

Wirral Council is looking to provide warm spaces in council buildings and leisure centres to protect people from the cold over the winter.

Cllr Williamson asked council officers to review all buildings including libraries and leisure centres and work with the NHS, police and fire service to establish other spaces that could be used.

She said: “We are now looking at ways to fill the gaps as best we can, using what resource we can to create a map and list of welcoming spaces where people can pop in for free and enjoy a warm welcome, and be connected to other support if they need it.”

The announcement came before Wirral Council held an urgent committee meeting on August 31 to debate how they will help support people through the cost of living crisis.

The Committee Meeting

The meeting was chaired by Janette Williamson, Wirral Council’s leader, and leaders of the Conservatives, Liberal Democrats and Greens attended.

Cllr Williamson said she called the meeting after failing to hear back from the Chancellor Nadhim Zahawi over her letter highlighting how residents are struggling.

She said: “He’s failed to respond so far. I’d like to say I’m surprised but given the fact this zombie government has failed to act across the country to date it’s become clear that if we want something doing, we’ll have to do it ourselves.”

She asked councillors to “put politics aside and step in when the government haven’t.”

At the meeting, one member of the public, Ruth Molyneux, said donations to foodbanks were dropping as demand rises..

She said: “People are terrified and do not know how they will cope” and spoke of a single mum who is worried about how she will be able to keep her autistic son “well fed and warm over the winter.”

Mrs Molyneux asked that Bromborough Civic Centre and Library was kept open as a warm hub, which Cllr Williamson said the council was considering as part of its plans.

Councillor Lesley Rennie, Deputy Conservative leader, criticised the council for how it put out information saying Wirral needed to “get our act together.”

She said one resident tried to visit a council building only to find out it was closed after being on the phone for 45 minutes. Cllr Rennie said: “Unless you are IT savvy, getting in touch with this council is a nightmare at the moment.”

Tom Anderson, leader of the Conservative, said the council should be looking more at what it can do than criticise the government though he hopes the new Prime Minister provides more support.

He echoed Cllr Rennie’s point and said the Council should be writing to residents eligible for the Household Support Fund who struggle to use technology. “There are 22,000 at the moment today who haven’t applied for that rebate because they are not on direct debit. The deadline is today.”

Cllr Pat Cleary, leader of the Greens, however praised the Council’s response but said that investment money needed to be brought forward.

He asked if the Council had looked into its reserves and whether those could be freed up to provide support. Shaer Halewood, Director of Resources, said many of the reserves were earmarked but confirmed the council is looking into whether these could be used.

The council voted on several amendments over the course of the meeting. An amendment looking at whether over £600,000 of uncommitted Covid support funding was passed unanimously while another, looking to use public health funds, was voted down.