Sunday Snippets, 11 February 2024

Welcome to “Sunday Snippets” a weekly feature from Birkenhead News. It is a round-up of the important local news stories you may have missed over the last seven days. Click or tap on each story to read the full article.

Birkenhead footfall statistics spark town centre shopping debate

Birkenhead shoppers said the area “feels like a ghost town” despite reports the town centre is making a comeback.

Wirral Council recently published statistics showing footfall in the Birkenhead Town Centre increased by more than 180,000 in the second half of 2023 following its purchase of the Pyramids and Grange shopping centres and hosting a number of events.

The council said this and increased social media engagement shows the public is “returning to both [shopping] centres in ever-increasing numbers” and that the town centre is “on the right path”.

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Wirral Council Tax expected to rise

Council Tax in Wirral is expected to rise by nearly 5% this year as the local authority looks to save £12.4m.

Wirral Council is preparing to set its revenue budget for the next financial year which will run between April 2024 and March 2025 setting out what the council plans to spend money on when it comes to running services like libraries, parks, bin collections, and other day-to-day services.

Councils every year have to set a balanced budget as they cannot borrow to fund services otherwise they may have to declare bankruptcy and many are expected to increase Council Tax to balance their budgets.

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On the lookout for Wirral’s climate champions

A call has gone out for Wirral residents who are passionate about protecting the environment and tackling climate change to help spread the word in their communities.

Wirral Council, along with other Wirral organisations and businesses which have combined to form the ‘Cool Wirral’ partnership, is looking for volunteers who would like to inspire others to take action and make changes to their lifestyle to reduce their carbon footprint.

Cool Wirral has set a target of achieving net-zero emissions in Wirral by 2041. As a Climate Champion, anyone who volunteers will play a key role in this by taking part in activities designed to raise awareness of climate change. They will also be expected to encourage members of their community to spread messages and take action to help meet this goal.

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Borough of Culture grants boost for arts, culture, and heritage projects

Artists, heritage groups, and creative organisations are being invited to apply for funding to get their projects off the ground during Wirral’s year as the Liverpool City Region’s Borough of Culture for 2024.

A total of up to £150,000 is available for Borough of Culture grants, which aim to grow the area’s creative sector and help local groups to celebrate Wirral’s year in the culture spotlight.

Councillor Helen Cameron, Chair of Wirral Council’s Tourism, Communities, Culture & Leisure Committee, said, “Wirral has incredibly talented creative communities and active heritage groups, which we are determined to support through our Borough of Culture programme.”

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Calday students secure places at Oxford and Cambridge

Calday Grange Grammar School has announced the extraordinary success of its students in the competitive application cycle for the University of Oxford and the University of Cambridge.

This year, 17 of the school’s scholars embarked on the challenging journey to apply to these globally renowned institutions, demonstrating their unwavering pursuit of academic excellence and a deep passion for learning.

The rigorous selection process saw nine of the candidates being selected for interviews, underscoring their outstanding potential and the high regard in which they are held by the admissions panels of Oxford and Cambridge.

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Wirral MPs say clinical support workers ‘deserve to be treated fairly’ in letter to NHS Trust

Two Wirral MPs, Margaret Greenwood and Mick Whitley, have written to the Chief Executive and the Chairman of Wirral University Teaching Hospital NHS Foundation Trust (WUTH) over the strike action currently being taken by clinical support workers based at Arrowe Park and Clatterbridge hospitals.

The workers are striking over pay and back pay that they believe they are entitled to for carrying out duties and tasks that are above their pay grade.

Unison, the union representing the workers, has said that these clinical support workers, who are on Band 2 of the NHS Agenda for Change pay scale, should only be providing personal care to patients. This includes things like bathing and feeding.

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‘Incredibly generous’ donation by Magazine Hotel supports restoration of historic lifeboat

The William & Kate Johnston Preservation Society received an incredibly generous donation from local business The Magazine Hotel, in New Brighton.

The donation will help realise phase one of the restoration project of the William & Kate Johnston lifeboat, which served New Brighton RNLI from 1923-1950, and saved 248 lives in 96 launches.

The donation of £1000 is a great indicator of the swell of support that the WKJPS have received from the local community since launching the campaign a few weeks ago.

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Demolition work starts on Wallasey Town Hall annexes

Work has begun on the demolition of the North and South Annexes next to Wallasey Town Hall.

Contractors were on site from Monday, 5 February, and works are expected to take 20 weeks.

The demolition of the unused annexe buildings is an early step in the ambitious regeneration proposals for the Seacombe area, focused around the Grade II* listed Wallasey Town Hall.

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Fare changes spark concerns from Wirral cab drivers

Wirral’s cab drivers believe their trade is dying as they struggle to make ends meet on a day-to-day basis.

On 31 January, Wirral Council made a number of changes to the rates taxi drivers charge across the borough which will see tariffs at night, on public and bank holidays, and Christmas and New Year go up but the rates people pay during the day stay the same.

Though some fares will rise, these were less than the proposals brought forward by Unite the Union in November 2023 that wanted to see fares go up across the board and a new £5 drop-off charge brought in for Liverpool on top of tunnel fees.

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Wirral residents celebrate 62 years of marriage

Love was in the air for two residents at a care home in Woodchurch in the run-up to Valentine’s Day,

Residents of HC-One’s County Homes Care Home, Jean and Jeffrey reflected on their 62 years of marriage.

Jean Spooner who is 84 and Jeffrey Spooner who is 83 shared their secrets to a happy marriage. Jean and Jeffrey were living in Wirral before Jean moved into County Homes in February 2022 and Jeff moved into the care home in September 2023.

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Luxury West Kirby flat plans pushed back due to council website error

Plans for 12 new luxury flats have been pushed back following a “cockup” by Wirral Council.

A bid for a “landmark residential development” off Grange Road, West Kirby, had been put forward by Prospect Capital UK. The application would have seen the former Combermere School knocked down and the new building constructed in its place overlooking the Dee estuary.

However, at a planning meeting on 8 February, West Kirby councillor Jeff Green pointed out the council’s planning website still said people could offer their views on the application up until 17 February. Council officers said the consultation deadline had been extended due to a mistake.

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Funding boost for Birkenhead Priory

Plans to transform the museum area and overall visitor experience at Merseyside’s oldest still-standing building have been approved.

Birkenhead Priory is benefitting from investment of more than £350,000 under the Town Deal grants awarded to Birkenhead that will enable significant improvements to be carried out at the historic site, which originally dates back to the year 1150.

A key part of this investment will see the transformation of one of the most eye-catching parts of the existing Priory into a much-improved – and more accessible – visitor attraction.

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Make CIC announces Make Hamilton 2.0, transforming Argyle Street building into vibrant maker space

Social business Make CIC is starting the new year with an exciting new vision, having bought the former Riverside Housing HQ on Argyle Street to create a permanent home for its creative community in Birkenhead.

Make helps people “turn their passions into prosperity” by providing studio space for people who might otherwise be working from home, alongside a programme of workshops, exhibitions and support.

The vision for the new site includes creative, cultural and community space, and better facilities for tenants. It will also feature a café, a roof garden (in the build’s second phase) and the bees, honey and hops that visitors will be familiar with from Make’s current home.

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New Brighton RNLI assist kite surfer

New Brighton RNLI’s volunteer lifeboat crew were tasked to assist a kite surfer who was struggling to self-recover.

On Monday, 5 February, at approximately 2.11pm, the sound of the pager alerted New Brighton RNLI’s volunteer lifeboat crew to a shout.

Reports of a kite surfer struggling to recover were passed to the crew of the Atlantic 85 B class lifeboat, who launched quickly to assist.

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Wirral Council forecasts £31m borrowing costs in upcoming budget

Wirral Council’s services will be charged more than £31m of costs linked to borrowing according to the latest forecasts.

The local authority is currently setting its budget for the next financial year which will outline how it spends money across the borough running and managing day-to-day services like libraries, leisure centres, road management, and adult and children’s social care.

It will also be setting its capital budget which will go towards funding building works and upgrading buildings and land across the borough.

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Wirral hospital celebrates diversity during Race Equality Week

Wirral University Teaching Hospital (WUTH) is set to celebrate Race Equality Week by spotlighting the stories of some of its dedicated staff from diverse heritages, cultures, and backgrounds.

Whilst the 2021 UK Census showed that 4.8% of Wirral residents identified their ethnic group as non-white, for WUTH this figure is 12.3% (over 800 staff). As the largest employer in Wirral with over 6,500 staff, and the number of staff with a non-white background growing each year, WUTH is like a multi-cultural village in the heart of Wirral.

As well as its ongoing and active recruitment from the local community, WUTH has supported a number of international recruitment initiatives over the years. The first cohort of nurses from Philippines, for example, arrived in December 1999.

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Plans for 335 homes overlooking Mersey not going ahead for now

Plans for 335 homes overlooking the River Mersey will not be going ahead in an area set for a nearly £23m upgrade.

£5.21m of a fund used to help deliver brownfield land developments had been set aside for the development of 335 homes on what is currently the Land Registry building at Rose Brae Court in Birkenhead near the Woodside Ferry Terminal.

However, the project had stalled by July 2023 due to ongoing negotiations with the Government Property Agency who said it was ensuring “the best possible value for taxpayers”.

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Heswall construction firm shortlisted in national sustainability awards

A Wirral-based construction firm has been announced as a finalist in the first-ever Making Better Homes Awards, a competition from national builders’ merchant Jewson.

Orka Construction, based in Heswall, will now compete in an online vote against two other finalists in the Best Building Fabric category of the awards, with entrants in the Best Use of Renewable Energy and Best Sustainable Project of the Year categories also going head-to-head. Winners will be announced at a ceremony later this year.

Created to recognise the tradespeople who are working hard to create energy-efficient, safe and comfortable homes, the Making Better Homes Awards received a wealth of entries from up and down the country.

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£2m community football hub and supersized pitch opens in Woodchurch

A state-of-the-art artificial grass pitch (AGP) in the heart of the Woodchurch Estate has seen its first fixture take place this weekend.

Players were joined by the Mayor of Wirral and other officials to kick off proceedings at the new facility.

The hub has a floodlit, artificial grass turf 3G football pitch that can be used flexibly to play all formats of the game including 5, 7 and 11-a-side matches for juniors and adults.

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Wirral Metro Swim Club win County Championships

Wirral Metro Swimming Club has become the top club in Cheshire, winning the 2024 Cheshire County Swimming Championships.

Held in Macclesfield Leisure Centre the championships take place over three weekends and are open only to swimmers who meet top county qualifying times.

The club achieved 66 gold medals, 58 silver, and 51 bronze with just 34 swimmers, beating much larger clubs across Cheshire to win most points overall. This makes them the first club in Wirral to achieve this at a County competition.

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Tranmere’s fight falls short in away loss at Doncaster

The home team took the lead 15 minutes into the match as Joe Ironside headed in from Hakeeb Adelakun’s cross.

Rovers managed to equalize in the 60th minute, courtesy of substitute Josh Hawkes, whose curled shot found the net off the inside of the far post.

Doncaster swiftly reclaimed the lead when Adelakun rounded Luke McGee and calmly tapped the ball into an empty net, securing the decisive goal.

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Wirral Police weekly news round-up

This is the Birkenhead News weekly round-up of police activity in and around Wirral during the last seven days.

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What’s On? Guide

Visit our “What’s On?” guide for Wirral and the surrounding areas in the coming weeks.

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