A MAJOR shake-up to radically change the way Wirral Council operates has been branded “deeply undemocratic”.

Under the new regime, annual elections will be scrapped in favour of a four-year cycle, local area forums will be reduced and replaced by a new system, several scrutiny committees will be wound-up and debates at full council meetings strictly regulated.

The ruling Labour group’s proposals will be aired at a specially-called meeting of the council next week.

A report to be studied by all 66 members of the authority says the overhaul “will bring long-overdue normality to Wirral.”

Tories disagree and say they have “serious misgivings” about the direction in which the administration is going.

Proposals to be studied next Tuesday say the borough’s existing 11 local area forums will be replaced by four new “Constituency Committees” each with their own budgets of £50,000.

Councillors will be encouraged to focus more on their electoral wards rather than the business at Wallasey Town Hall.

They are being asked to consider themselves not so much politicians, but as “community champions.”

Of particular concern to opposition councillors is the merging of two separate scrutiny committees – children and young people and adult social services – into a single umbrella body.

Conservative group deputy leader Cllr Lesley Rennie said: “Given this council’s appalling record in safeguarding vulnerable people, reducing the level of scrutiny in this area is not just worrying, it’s really dangerous.

“We have serious misgivings about this and other undemocratic changes.

“It is Orwellian to abolish annual elections and scrutiny bodies while at the same time telling elected members they shouldn’t worry themselves about the business of the town hall, but instead become 'community champions'.

“We already spend the vast majority of our time in the community, it’s what we do. We do not need that to be written into the Wirral Council constitution.

“It seems to me the administration and the executive wants us out of the way so they can do almost whatever they wish.

“It feels as if Wirral is transforming from a democracy into some sort of local council version of a dictatorship”

The Globe has been unable to speak to council leader Cllr Phil Davies, but in a report to next week’s meeting he says the proposed changes are “not radical” and represent an important aspect of the council’s ongoing improvement plan.

He writes: “Making them would bring long-overdue normality to Wirral.”

Tightening up procedures at full council meetings - in which cabinet members will provide answers to written questions - will end the "Punch and Judy" appearance of town hall politics.

If the changes are approved - as seems likely given Labour's clear eight-seat majority - they will come into effect from the beginning of the new municipal year, early in May.

There will also be a special cabinet meeting on May 23 to consider details of how the new Constituency Committees will operate.