THE ruling Labour group's plan to take blanket control of Wirral Council affairs by chairing all of the authority's scrutiny committees has been approved amid controversy.

Labour councillors united behind leader Cllr Phil Davies, voting by 37 to 23 in favour of his proposal on Monday night’s annual council meeting.

It means no members of opposition parties will chair the watchdog committees.

Wirral's Conservatives and Lib Dems were united in opposition to the proposal, describing it as a “power grab” and “retrograde step.”

Senior Lib-Dem councillor Stuart Kelly claimed the blanket control plan was an attempt by Labour to put their activities beyond scrutiny.

He said: "All committees now will be placed under the direction of the Labour Party-appointed chairs.

“This is a power grab and an attempt to stifle the effectiveness of opposition on Wirral Council.

"Labour needs to explain the justification for this move and why they are changing the cross party scrutiny arrangements that have existed for years.”

Councillor Davies said the Labour group had increased its majority to ten seats following the recent elections and he felt his group had a mandate to run the council.

He commented: “The behaviour of the opposition parties last year was totally irresponsible and we don’t feel they deserve to be in a position of responsibility.

“Stuart Kelly himself spent most of the year criticising all our savings without coming up with any alternatives.

"My advice to him would be to lobby his party, which is in government and forcing these cuts on us.”

Conservative group leader Jeff Green said: "I'm angry the Labour Party, as many suspected, has gone back to how it was before the improvement board was called in.

"We have real and genuine concerns about the size and scope of the families and wellbeing committee and its ability to adequately scrutinise the performance of services for adults and children in Wirral."

Conservative councillor for Meols, David Elderton, said: "We should be more open and scrutinise every decision.

"Scrutiny committees should always be chaired by parties other those in charge. If they are not, it does not look good to the public."