Wirral's culture chief Cllr David Elderton has pledged the authority is committed to maintaining and improving library services despite the loss of 50 staff due to budget buts.

Libraries across the borough are affected by the staff losses with Birkenhead (12), Wallasey (six) and Bebington, Bromborough and Heswall (four each) being the worst hit.

They are part of the 1,100 staff who have already had applications for early retirement or severance approved. Last week a further 210 were offered the chance to leave.

Three years ago the Labour adminstration was forced, in the face of as public outcry, to drop plans to close a dozen libraries and replace them with fewer but more modern facilities.

Now Labour leader Cllr Steve Foulkes has rounded on the controlling Tory/Lib Dem coalition claiming: "Today we are in exactly the position we predicted would happen if the scheme did not go ahead.

"Three years ago we set out to invest over £20m in creating a modern library and information system, fully equipped for the future, which would withstand all the threats of economic recession and reduced government funding. "This was violently opposed by the Tories who whipped up a storm of local and national protest.

"Thirteen hundred jobs are being purged from Wirral Council and, as part of that purge, over 50 library staff are going, not to be replaced, taking all their knowledge and expertise with them."

Cllr Elderton, council cabinet member for culture, said: "We are absolutely committed to maintaining Wirral's library service and have actually invested almost £1m for extra equipment, books and building improvements "There are currently 167 full-time equivalents working across our library service.

"Thirty four of these are due to leave the council under voluntary terms.

"However many will be replaced by existing staff and this will not prevent us from maintaining and improving these valued facilities.

"We are actually developing plans to expand the number of services offered through our libraries. Wirral residents have told us how important their local library is to them and we have listened."

Cllr Foulkes hit back: "There is no money available for investment.

"Libraries are still housed in old and sometimes inadequate buildings with out-of-date technology unable to compete in the modern world.

"Local government funding has been dramatically slashed."