Wirral Council decides on which assets to be put up for sale

Wirral Council is to sell a library following a private vote as it looks to balance its books.

Bromborough Civic Centre was one of several assets proposed for sale at a 12 July meeting as part of efforts by the local authority to save money with the vote taking place during a part of the meeting where press and the public were excluded to discuss sensitive information.

The centre, which contains a library, was closed in 2022 as part of budget cuts that year and since then two unsuccessful bids have been put forward for third parties to take it over.

All political parties have campaigned to see it reopen under community hands. It was a key issue during the elections and despite previous proposals for a sale, a recent committee voted to move forward with the transfer process.

However, council leader Paul Stuart said it was decided the library should be sold following “very clear and unambiguous advice” from the council’s director of finance Matthew Bennett. The result of the vote was not revealed when the public were allowed back in but this has been confirmed by sources present.

Green Party councillor Jo Bird posted on Twitter to claim that Labour and Conservative councillors had voted to sell it off at the best possible price. Cllr Bird also said the Liberal Democrats voted with the Greens to move forward with asset transfer.

Cllr Phil Gilchrist, leader of the Liberal Democrat group, confirmed their position.

Council leader Paul Stuart had sought assurances before the secret session the community asset transfer process would be allowed to finish if a sale was approved but confirmed the civic centre would be sold after advice from council officers.

The council has to sell off assets because it approached the government for emergency funding in 2021 and now has to pay back £12m. The government told the council it would have to look at what assets it could sell in order to make that back.

Conservative Cllr Jeff Green during a discussion on Bromborough said, “There’s no point asking for help on the point of ‘of course we’ll pay you back’ and then all of a sudden finding all sorts of ways to delay paying it back or not paying it back.

“I think in these circumstances I would need a lot of convincing we wouldn’t go to the stage this is disposed of.”

A whole host of assets had been proposed for sale from car parks to old town halls and libraries to agricultural farmland.

During the same meeting, councillors opted to dispose of the Oaklands Outdoor Centre in the Eryri (Snowdonia) National Park, land off Ditton Lane and Pearson Road, properties on Seaview Road, Manor Road and Laird Street, former offices, the former youth centre in Eastham, the Coronation Gardens cafe, the former Seacombe Library, and Price Street car park among others.

Bebington Town Hall will be sold despite a request for a condition from Cllr Phil Gilchrist for a guarantee of extra care housing. The current site of the Clare Mount Specialist Sports College will also sold as the school is moving to a different location. This was opposed by the Liberal Democrats and Greens.

Cleared land and a greenspace at Bedford Place will also be sold despite opposition from the Greens there. Holborn Square Industrial Estate will now be referred back to committee for further consideration due to its links with the Tranmere Tunnels project.

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