A Wirral councillor has apologised for the “awful” handling of a library that is now up for sale.
The apology came from Cllr Helen Cameron in response to a question from a member of the Friends of Bromborough Library on July 25.
This follows the recent decision by Wirral Council to not move ahead with Bromborough Civic Centre moving into community hands. It has decided to sell it off in order to sort out the council’s “dire financial situation.”
The civic centre, which includes a library, closed in 2022 after sweeping budget cuts were passed that year and following a request by the council for £12m emergency government funding.
After it closed, two highly rated bids were put forward to take it over and a June tourism, communities, culture and leisure committee voted to continue this community asset transfer (CAT) process and examine the bids in more detail.
However at a July policy and resources committee, advice was reportedly given by council finance officers during an non-public session that the council could no longer move ahead and needed to sell it off along with several other assets. This is because it needs to pay off the emergency funding.
The decision was voted through with Labour and Conservative support but proved to be incredibly controversial. The chair of the library friends, Mo Miller accused the council of selling the Bromborough’s welfare “to the higher bidder.”
Following this at a tourism committee meeting on July 25, Mr Hogg, a representative for the Friends group, said: “This chain of events suggests at the very least some confusion.
“The council has known for some time it was mandated to repay the capitalisation sum of over £12m yet it continued to proceed with the CAT process despite that sort of pressure wasting everyone’s time, money, and energy in the process.”
He accused the policy and resources committee of “overruling a well thought through decision by this (tourism) committee which had evaluated the issue at length.”
In response, Cllr Cameron who chairs the tourism committee said she disagreed with some points and said they had previously agreed to consider all options but added: “I share a degree of your frustration on this whole matter.”
Cllr Cameron said: “It has been awful the way it’s been handled and I can only apologise for that. If there weren’t so many other successful CAT transfers through this process, I would have thought the process wouldn’t be fit for purpose.
“I really apologise for the way it’s been handled on behalf of this committee and as a member of policy and resources.”
She said the council’s director of finance Matthew Bennett had recommended a sale because councillors had “inherited an absolutely dire financial situation,” adding: “If there was ever one example of how not to do community asset transfer, I would say yes it is Bromborough Civic Centre and I apologise again for that.”
Image: GOOGLE Inset: Cllr Helen Cameron (Wirral Council)