LOCAL election campaigning officially got underway in Wirral today as Labour frontbench MP Andy Burnham arrived to rally supporters.

The shadow health secretary joined the council's new Labour leader, Phil Davies, on the hustings as the parties start gearing up for polling day on May 3.

Also lending their support were Wallasey MP and shadow treasury minister Angela Eagle and Wirral South MP Alison McGovern.

Mr Burnham will be well-known to Globe readers as the Government minister who stepped in at the 11th-hour to prevent the highly-controversial closure of 11 of the borough's libraries.

In April of 2009, Mr Burnham was then culture secretary and brought a dramatic halt to the council's "strategic asset review" closure programme by announcing a public inquiry just 24 hours before the first library was due for the axe.

Addressing an audience today of party members and supporters at Birkenhead Town Hall, Mr Burnham said: “I am here to give my full support to Phil and the Labour group.

"It’s so important that we get Labour in control of this council.

“We’ve seen here in Wirral the damage that a coalition is doing with the wrong priorities.

“I’m here very much to send a message about supporting the frontline in our public services - in the police, the fire service and also in the national health service where the Government are making the wrong choices.

“They’ve brought forward a costly re-organisation that is damaging the frontline.

"On the day of the budget the the true colours of this coalition were really shown.

“They were handing out tax cuts to millionaires while at the same time giving P45s to nurses.

“That’s why they need to be shown the clearest of messages on May 3.”

The Labour group’s new leader Cllr Davies, who was unanimously voted in after Steve Foulkes announced his resignation, used the occasion to praise his predecessor: “I think Steve was obviously decided that he was going to play a different role in the group.

"I’m just so grafeful for the fantastic service he’s given to the Labour party and Labour group in Wirral.

“He’ll stay as a councillor and I’m sure he’ll make a continuing contribution to the group.

“We’ve got a lot of hard work to do, but I think there is an enthusiasm out there for Labour policies and I think people are angry.”

Twenty-two wards are being contested in the May 3 ballot. The council is currently under the minority rule of Conservatives who hold 27 seats. Labour is the largest single group with 30 councillors and Lib Dems trail with nine.