Proposals to close Wirral libraries and playgrounds thrown out by councillors

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A final decision on the budget is expected at the end of the month.

Plans to close nine libraries, playgroups and a leisure centre have been thrown out by councillors after a tense Wirral Council meeting.

Councillors were debating whether to approve a budget put forward by Labour, Wirral’s largest party at a cross-party top committee meeting.

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The budget included proposals to keep nine libraries open, avoid moving two libraries in Birkehead and Wallasey or closing three playgroups and youth services across Wirral.

It was also revealed at the meeting the Oval Leisure Centre, where the film Chariots of Fire was filmed, could have closed under the proposals put forward in January.

The proposals will now be debated by all councillors on February 27 and looks likely to pass with support from the Liberal Democrats and the Greens who voted to move the budget forward with Labour.

Protestors against “The Addy" a playground, being under threat before the meeting. Closing it has now been rejected by councillors. Credit: Ed BarnesProtestors against “The Addy" a playground, being under threat before the meeting. Closing it has now been rejected by councillors. Credit: Ed Barnes
Protestors against “The Addy" a playground, being under threat before the meeting. Closing it has now been rejected by councillors. Credit: Ed Barnes

Concerns were raised by Conservative councillors who voted against the proposals about a council tax rise, whether the council’s longer term finances were sound, and why council employees couldn’t be given the sack.

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Council leader Janette Williamson, when introducing the budget said: “Under the gaze of an improvement panel we have been told to make difficult decisions, to work together and find ways to do more with less.

“My councillors have done that. We have spent day after day and night after night going through every possible option to save the services our residents value.”

Proposals to close libraries in Beechwood, Eastham, Greasby, Leasowe, Moreton, Rock Ferry, St James, Seacombe, and Upton are now off as well as moving Birkenhead and Wallasey Central Library to different locations.

Closures to the Addy, Gautby Road, and Beechwood playschemes are also out as well as the Hive and Pilgrim Street. Plans to close two swimming pools are also off.

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Support from Wirral’s Green Party came after money was set aside for bulky waste collection, recycling awareness campaigns and environmental health.

Cllr Pat Cleary, the Green’s leader, said recycling rates in Wirral were already “unacceptably low” and that he was “pleased” to support the budget with the new changes.


Conservative leader Tom Anderson criticised the council spending £3m on pay for top officers as well as £127m on itself and accused the other parties of “hiding behind the elections.”

He said: “If the medium term financial plan says we’re going to overspend by £12m next year and £35m by three years then this is just a sticking plaster isn’t it and the actual plans for the cuts to those libraries, those leisure centres, for those environmental services will actually have to come next year.”

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The raise of 4.99% has been supported by both the council’s watchdog as well as its Chief Finance Officer who said it was needed to avoid cuts to services like libraries.

However Cllr Helen Cameron said other options had previously been available, adding backup reserves had been “decimated by Labour before the pandemic” leaving the council in an inflexible position. Cllr Max Booth accused councillors of “jumping on the bandwagon” with the tax rise.

Conservative councillors also raised concerns about voluntary redundancies arguing this could mean good employees moved elsewhere. Cllr Jenny Johnson said: “If we were a private company, we would be considering compulsory redundancies as part of this.”

The criticisms prompted Labour councillor Yvonne Nolan to hit back who said: “If you can’t come up with anything yourselves just keep quiet.”

A final decision on the budget is expected on February 27.

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