Consultation on libraries and public toilets budget options begins

Budget consultations around proposed reductions in public toilets and the new library service have been launched.

The move is part of a wider package of measures to address a significant gap in the council’s budget for the forthcoming year.

Both consultations will run for eight weeks and will be primarily through the council’s online  consultation portal, although paper copies will be made available where needed.

The library consultation is from Monday February 21 for eight weeks. It follows an earlier 12-week consultation in 2021 on the new Library Strategy. The aim is for the new operating model to create the much-needed capacity and resource to invest in the quality and equality of the service across the borough, by realigning and focusing available resources where they are needed most. The options being consulted on are:

Option 1 – This option would see one Central library (Birkenhead Library) and the closure of the remaining library sites. The online library and Home Reader Service would be retained as well as investment in a new mobile library service to mitigate loss of physical provision. This option would also contribute a saving of £2.2m towards the council’s budget gap in the next financial year.

Option 2 – This option would be the delivery of a library service with four central libraries (Birkenhead, Wallasey, West Kirby, and Bebington Libraries) and the closure of the remaining library sites. Much like Option 1, this option aims to consolidate and focus available resources with the aim of providing a better quality and defined service from fewer sites. This would be supported with an enhanced digital online offer, Home Reader Service, and the investment in a new mobile library service. This would contribute a saving of £1m towards the council’s budget gap in the next financial year.

Option 3 – Recommended Option: This would see a saving of £814,000 towards the council’s budget gap in the next financial year through retaining the four main central Libraries plus four smaller community libraries which are

  • Birkenhead Central, West Kirby, Wallasey Central, and Bebington Central
  • Eastham, Moreton, Upton, and Heswall
  • Five additional sites would be established as unstaffed RFID sites giving residents a self-serviced library offer in a co-located venue. These are: Leasowe – Millennium Centre, Beechwood – Co-located in community asset, Ridgeway – In school, St James – St James Centre, Seacombe – Seacombe Children’s Centre
  • The online library offers 24/7 access and the proposed new mobile library hours offered are subject to the emerging programme.

The Policy & Resources Committee made a recommendation to Council in relation to libraries to make sufficient monies available to enable option 3 (recommended option) to be amended to include Greasby and Rock Ferry libraries. Also allowing all libraries to continue to operate until 1 November 2022 whilst expressions of interest for their community asset transfer are sought and business cases developed and assessed. This is referred to in the survey questions as ‘Option 3 as amended’ and you are given an opportunity to comment on it in addition to the other options.

Detailed information on the new operating models in the full committee report and supporting appendices can be found here

The priority for a new operating model has always been our statutory duty as a Library Authority, however the Library Service has had to be considerate of these current challenges and has highlighted the associated saving against each option for a new operating model. The council is legally obliged to set a balanced budget or risk Government intervention, and the associated savings attached to each option are to support the authority on reaching a stable financial footing for the long-term.

The Library Service is now looking for views and feedback from all residents, library users and non-users, stakeholders and interested parties on the new proposed operating models as well as new ideas and opportunities that may support the future of the Library Service.

The consultation on public toilets is also underway and open until 14 April.

The council currently provides nine locations for public conveniences throughout the borough and this proposal suggests the closure of five of these conveniences.

However, there will remain public conveniences at numerous parks across Wirral which are unaffected by this proposal, in addition to toilets open to the public at a number of public buildings. A map showing public toilets including parks is available in the Documents section of the webpage.

During the pandemic, public toilets at four key sites were opened when it was safe to do so, with additional cleaning put in place to maintain public safety. These opened sites were chosen due to their location, in response to increased activity of residents and visitors at coastal areas, and also considering the condition and suitability of the facilities to provide a good quality public service.

The proposal is to retain those four sites that are currently open: West Kirby Marine Lake, Parade Gardens Hoylake, Harrison Drive (Kings Parade) New Brighton and Moreton Common. The sites that would close are Moreton Cross, West Kirby Concourse (external), Meols Parade (Bennetts Lane), New Ferry and Thornton Hough.

The retained public conveniences are generally in good condition, but some building improvements would be required; by reducing the number of sites this would allow more investment in the retained facilities. This budget option will generate a potential saving of £50,000 if taken.

Have Your Say on leisure proposals

Consultation on a number of budget proposal for leisure services are continuing and are open until March 27. To take part follow the link:

At this stage, no final decisions on any of the budget proposals have been made and councillors have requested these consultations to allow all views to be considered. Following the budget consultations, the next step in the budget process will be for councillors to scrutinise the savings proposals, taking into account the comments of the public including any suggestions on alternative ways of making savings, and the budget allotted by the full council to the relevant committee. This will take place at their meetings in late May or June when decisions will be made on the proposals.

You can find more details about the budget-setting process and all the savings options being considered here: Wirral View Budget Proposals 2022-23

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