Wirral council’s Labour leadership has saved school crossing patrols, public toilets and ensured that parking permits will not rise as part of the current budget proposals.
They also gave the Woodchurch Leisure Centre time to find a community group to take over its running, holding off demolition while business cases are put together.
Labour council leader Janette Williamson introduced a series of amendments at the council’s Policy and Resources meeting last night.
Addressing the meeting, she said, “We have been told by the government that we need to develop a ‘more realistic’ asset disposal strategy, and that we have too many libraries, leisure centres and golf clubs. If we don’t cut these, then commissioners will come in and do if for us.
“At the same time, we speak to our residents and they make very clear that they value these services and wish for as many as possible to remain, so we have spent the time since these drastic cuts were announced trying to find ways to do more with less.
”Labour’s team has been working hard to make every possible saving, making sure vital services and assets could be protected for future generations.”
Speaking about the decision to halt increases in parking permit fees, she added, “Residents parking schemes are in place in areas where there is a shopping centre or venues that make it hard for residents in that area to get a parking space by their home. This charge would be unfair to those people who live in those areas and would cause more pressure at a time when costs of living are rising.”
Cllr Liz Grey, who has run a campaign to save school crossing patrols from planned cuts, welcomed the news that this was no longer part of the budget reductions.
She said, “I am so relieved and delighted that school crossing patrols are to be saved. This is a budget proposal that should no longer come forward in future. We have listened to residents and we know how much they care about this. It’s time to take this proposed cut off the table for good now. We listened and we acted.
“We want children cycling and walking to school safely. Our lollipop men and women are life savers. We value them and we need them. Let’s not put them or the families that depend on them through this stress again.”
Similarly, Labour Cllr Tony Jones, who has been campaigning to keep public conveniences, added, “Public conveniences offer a vital service, particularly to families, older people and those with disabilities, and I am delighted that the threatened closures will no longer take place.”
Upton Labour councillor Jean Robinson has been working with community groups to try to find a way to keep valued leisure services in Woodchurch, after officers identified Woodchurch Leisure Centre for closure.
Cllr Robinson told the meeting, “Since the news of the central Government cuts was announced, we have been working closely with the community to find a way to save this cherished resource. Almost 5,000 people have signed a petition to support this, and it is clear that this facility is valued in Woodchurch and beyond.
“While we have made huge strides in this short time – and I want to put on record my thanks to the local community, the council leader Janette Williamson and our MP Margaret Greenwood for all the support they have given – it will take more than the few weeks we have had so far to put business cases together.
“So, rather than give in and accept demolition, we have asked for time and the funding earmarked for those demolition costs, to work with community organisations over the next six months on finding a better way forward.”
Responding to a misunderstanding that Seacombe Library was to close as part of the budget cuts, Cllr Paul Stuart asked for it to be clarified that the library actually re-opened in its new site today, after two years closed.
He said: “After consulting with residents I asked for an assurance about Seacombe Library and its new provision in the Children’s Centre on St Paul’s Road. The new facility has opened today, and has been welcomed by the local community after the old site had to close for almost two years, serving as a covid test and vaccination centre.
“The feedback we have had is that the new site is as good, if not better than the previous one, with books to borrow, titles suitable for all ages, publicly accessible IT equipment, with improved WI-FI, enabling fast and effective connection to the internet.
“The new improved library offer remains free to use, with library staff on hand to assist visitors with inquiries. I would like to put on record my thanks to all involved for their hard work in giving Seacombe its library facilities back.”
There were also assurances requested from Labour councillors to ensure that if Europa’s fun pool is to close, that alternative provision will be made, and that officers will look to provide a children’s activity area in the main swimming pool for use on specific days and during the school holidays.
Similarly, members asked that all proposals submitted during the consultation period for Hoylake and Brackenwood golf courses will be fully explored, including options for increasing fees, alternative provision of golf, outdoor activities, allotments and environmental projects.
There was an assurance from all parties that the golf courses would not be sold for housing, and would remain as green spaces with community access, even if golf could no longer be funded.