Wirral Conservatives said they opposed putting up council tax to keep much-needed services running – before voting to increase the bills facing households anyway.
At Monday’s full council meeting, the Conservative group voted against the Labour budget – which included saving community policing patrols, libraries, leisure centres and play schemes – saying it would require a council tax rise.
But immediately after voting against saving those services, they voted to approve the 4.99% increase in the charge anyway.
Today, the Labour group said at worst the Conservatives believed people in the borough should pay more but get nothing in return for it, or at best they had no grasp of what they were voting on.
Either case showed the Tories were completely unfit to represent the people of Wirral, Labour council leader Cllr Janette Williamson said.
The proposed followed cuts to the overall budget from central government to Wirral Council, which saw council officers put forward a series of drastic measures, including closing 10 of the remaining 15 libraries and moving Birkenhead Central and Wallasey Central, to Birkenhead Town Hall and the Floral Pavilion.
It would have seen a 50% reduction in street and alleyway clearing, a similar cut in parks and countryside maintenance, closure of the police CCTV room and community police patrols, which help reduce nuisance crime.
The youth services would have also had to close youth play schemes relied on by hundreds of children, including The Addy, Gautby Road Playscheme, The Hive and The Beechwood Playscheme.
Labour campaigners opposed these moves, putting together a budget which retains all of these services.
At Monday’s full council meeting, the Conservative group voted against this balanced budget, saying that it would require an increase in council tax.
But the same evening they voted for a recommendation to increase council tax bills to residents anyway.
The recommendation that all councillors, except the mayor, voted to accept was:
That Council: a. Sets the Band D Council Tax at £1,798.48 for the Wirral Borough Council element of the Council Tax, representing a general increase of 2.99% and 2.00% ringfenced increase to Adult Social Care, and the Council Tax requirement for the Council’s own purposes for 2023/24 of £171.9m as detailed in Appendix 5. b. Note that the additional precepts from the Police & Crime Commissioner for Merseyside and the Merseyside Fire & Rescue Authority remain in estimated form and delegates authority to the Section 151 Officer to implement any variation to the overall council tax arising from the final notification of the precepts.
Following the meeting, Conservative councillors were heard saying they had voted against a council tax rise, seemingly having misunderstood the process.