Wirral Labour budget saves Williamson Gallery, Europa Pools and more

Wirral council’s Labour leadership has saved school crossing patrols, bin collections and the borough’s most prized leisure assets, following a full council meeting earlier this evening.

Due to pressures put on Wirral’s council budget due to central government funding cuts and the pressure from the extra expenditure due to the COVID-19 pandemic, there was cross-party concern that vital services may have had to been reduced or cut all together.

At tonight’s full council meeting, Labour council leader Janette Williamson put forward a revised budget that received the cross-party support of the full council. 

Among the key measures brought forward by the Labour administration and backed by opposition groups are plans to continue funding the Williamson Art Gallery and the council’s Europa swimming pools. All municipal golf courses will also be spared from closure or sale.

Cllr Williamson said the budget was one that “serves our communities on every level”. She added, “Every penny we spend is a reflection of where our priorities lie and what our values are. “In December we were told we must make £10m of budget cuts.

“This was heartbreaking, as the budget we had passed in March 2020 was fully costed, with deliverable savings, no closure of services and no compulsory redundancies. “So we did what we do best. We asked our communities what they wanted, and we listened to the results.

“Then we tried to find ways to make that happen. “The messages from our budget consultation were clear: people value our wonderful amenities and they want us to protect them for the future. “That meant protecting our much loved and vital amenities and first-class leisure services.

“That meant saving our amazing school crossing patrols, which keep our children safe. That meant working towards a cleaner, greener, healthier, more ethical and inclusive borough.“We’ve listened, we’ve understood, and we’ve acted. And I believe the Labour budget we have worked so hard to create paints a bright picture of the future here in Wirral, for now and for the future.”

Many Wirral residents expressed their views at the meeting: 

Keith Marsh, Secretary of Brackenwood Golf Club in Higher Bebington wrote on behalf of golfers in the peninsula, and of the Alliance of Wirral Municipal Golf Clubs. He said: “We are really encouraged and optimistic about the future of Golf and the land in which our courses reside from this budget proposal. We see this proposal as a positive move to protect vital non-statutory services such as Golf.”

He added: “We thank the Labour group for tabling this proposal that on our part, helps to safeguard the sport we love, the land that serves communities beyond golf and provides some stability for our Golf clubs enabling us to plan for our future.”

The Williamson too is a vital community resource, as Shelagh Cullity from New Brighton wrote to say. “I was so relieved when I heard that the Williamson is going to stay open,” she said.

“It’s a great asset for the Wirral in general but particularly for the community. I love visiting the Williamson as there is always something new to discover and so many activities for all ages.  Walking into the Williamson is like walking into a treasure trove with the added bonus of enthusiastic and knowledgeable staff there to welcome you. 

“Wirral Labour group have made a good and important decision in these difficult financial times.”

The Williamson Art Gallery is the main hub of arts and culture here in Wirral, loved by local and international artists and makers alike. It is a vital community resource, cherished by visitors of all ages and backgrounds.

Europa Swimming pool and fun pool is a cherished and much-used resource, where our children learn to swim. The budget will keep the competitive pool open and look to open the fun pool as and when public health and government guidance permits

Loved by many, Wirral’s municipal golf courses are the envy of many local councils. They are integral to residents’ physical and mental wellbeing.

Council leader Janette Williamson outside the Williamson Art Gallery at Slatey Road, Birkenhead. Courtesy Jade Wright

This budget will keep our school crossing patrols, who are at the heart of their communities, and help our children’s safety. This is vital as our children start to go back to school in larger numbers. 

The council has agreed to keep our public conveniences open. They will be important as people to get out and about and enjoy the borough’s green spaces once restrictions lift.

Bin collections will not move to a three-weekly schedule and will see an increase to any waste charges. We must support our residents in their recycling and discourage fly-tipping in the Borough, a truly selfish and heinous act on the part of some residents

Regarding Eenvironmental initiatives, the council will ensure that our Climate Emergency budget of £100k is maintained as we go forward with our ambitious green agenda.

Youth services provide a vital lifeline to our young people, particularly in times where their mental health has suffered as a result of Covid. We recognise the fantastic work that the Hive does and wish to support them to the tune of £300k.  In addition, there will be a further £200k for wider youth services across Wirral, making a real difference in the lives of young people across the borough.

Wirral Council will continue to pay the Real Living Wage to care workers, who have played such a vital role during Covid, caring for our loved ones. Wirral Council was one of the first councils to implement the RLW.

The council agreed to oppose all compulsory redundancies. Our workforce has been decimated since the austerity programme of 2010.

Counmcil staff have continued to serve their borough despite this, and are determined offer support, advice and services to our residents throughout a national pandemic and beyond.

Social care services will continue to receive support for vulnerable adults and children through our vital social care services.

Wealth Building strategy has already seen social value benefits in the council’s procurement worth nearly £22m. The council is helping to deliver local employment, local procurement and supporting our young people and care workers into paid work. If you want to do business with Wirral, you must be ethical and community-focused.

The council has plans for a community bank in partnership with two other councils. One which will tackle financial exclusion and support our small and medium-sized businesses coming out of Covid

Thanks to Jade Wright for her contribution of this article.