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Wirral council tax increased and services reduced
WIRRAL's council tax is to increase by 2% this year while at the same time public services are to be hit by £42m of cuts.
The ruling Labour group’s controversial budget was approved last night as hundreds of protestors rallied at Wallasey Town Hall to object against the cost-cutting measures.
Many of them were parents and carers of vulnerable people affected by the proposed closure of one of the borough’s three adult day centres providing services for those with physical and learning disabilities.
Other controversial moves include 350 staff redundancies, ending council sponsorship of Tranmere Rovers FC, reducing maintenance of parks and gardens and closing local youth clubs in favour of a new £1m “youth hub” in Birkenhead.
A 14,000-name petition calling for day centres to be spared the axe was presented to the authority.
A similar 1,631-name protest - organised by young people from Bromborough youth club - against the closure of up to 11 local clubs was also handed in.
Council leader Cllr Phil Davies said the decisions were the most difficult yet to be faced by the local authority, but he blamed reduced Government funding for making them necessary.
He said: “Faced with a disgraceful settlement from the Tory-Lib Dem coalition Wirral Council has been forced to set a budget that makes cuts to services unavoidable.
"As I have repeatedly stated, this is not what I came into politics to do.
"However, I have a duty to those I am elected to serve, and particularly the most vulnerable in society, to set a legal budget."
He said there will be a three-month consultation period with users of adult day centres in which they and their families would be able to submit alternative proposals.
The budget sets out that either Eastham, Moreton or Heswall day centre will be closed.
Tory and Liberal Democrat groups both called for all three centres to stay open, with Conservative leader Cllr Jeff Green saying Labour’s budget was being made “on the backs of Wirral’s most vulnerable.”
Councillor Green also argued the authority should have accepted a £1.3m Government grant offered to help town halls across the country to freeze council tax this year.
But Cllr Davies said it would be unwise to do so as the extra cash this year would only have to be repaid in 2015.
Liberal Democrat councillor Stuart Kelly called for a review of the proposed "youth zone" for Birkenhead.
“We need to rethink this project in the light of the petition. The young people were clear they hadn’t been consulted about these plans or the options available," he said.
"Their initial reaction was to ask for the £1m to be used to improve existing local facilities and to ask how they are going to be able to access a centralised hub from areas like Bromborough, Greasby and Moreton.
“These big hubs are very often just vanity projects for local councils but we should be asking the people who use the youth services - the young people themselves - what they think we should be doing.”
Labour’s budget was passed by 37 votes to 26.