The Member of Parliament for Birkenhead, Mick Whitley, has today warned that cuts currently being considered by Wirral Council threaten to deal a “hammer blow” to the life chances of the poorest communities in Wirral and called on the Council to preserve services in the most deprived communities in the Borough.
The Council is facing a huge funding shortfall and has recently published proposed cuts amounting to millions of pounds. The proposals are now open for public consultation.
Among the suggested cuts that recently went before the council’s cross-party Policy and Resources Committee are the closure of eleven libraries across Wirral, the closure of the Woodchurch Leisure Centre, the permanent closure of the Fun Pool at Europa and additional reductions in spending on children’s services and adult social care.
Mick Whitley has thrown his weight behind the campaigns to keep Woodchurch Leisure Centre and the fun pool at Europa Pools open. He described Woodchurch Leisure Centre, which is used by many people living in Prenton and Noctorum as well as on the Woodchurch estate, as “a cherished community asset for some of the most left-behind communities in Wirral.”
Mick went on to stress, “The centre provides our young people with an invaluable opportunity to socialise, have fun, and get fit. Its closure risks undermining the important work done in recent years to improve the health of young people in Birkenhead.”
To date, more than three thousand residents have signed a petition calling for the centre to be kept open.
The proposals on the table also include the closure of Prenton and Rock Ferry Libraries, as well as the relocation of St James Library and its conversion to a self-service facility.
Mick Whitley said, “Young people in my constituency experience significant educational challenges. Many have no access to books or even the internet at home, while educational attainment in Birkenhead is below the national average. Libraries are a vital resource for many, while librarians play an important role in opening up new worlds of learning for young people. Closing these libraries would be a devastating blow to the educational opportunities of those who need them most.”
The Birkenhead MP also pointed to the number of residents who use library computers to access essential services, such as Universal Credit, as a further reason for keeping libraries open.
Reflecting on the whole package of proposals, Mick Whitley said that they risked “targeting the youngest and poorest” and said that the most deprived communities in his constituency had already been hit hardest by frontline spending cuts over the last twelve years.
He further warned that additional cuts to youth services, including a £150,000 cut in funding to the HIVE Youth Zone in central Birkenhead, could create a “lost generation of young people who simply have nowhere to go.”
The Member of Parliament for Birkenhead was clear that the blame for the funding crisis lies with successive Conservative governments whose politically motivated cuts have devasted local authority budgets since 2010.
Earlier this month, he accused the Levelling Up Secretary Michael Gove of a “shameful abdication of responsibility” for not doing more to support cash-strapped councils and called on Ministers to avoid a “cataclysmic” reduction in services by providing additional financial support for Wirral Council.
Local councillors now have the “enormous responsibility of ensuring that our most left-behind communities – and in particular our young people – are not forced to bear the brunt of further cuts”, the Birkenhead MP said. “A fundamental rethink is now needed to ensure that essential services in our most deprived areas stay open and accessible for all.”
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