Wirral Council has made a U-turn over insisting former employees return their "Passports for Life" leisure passes.

The cost-cutting move was announced in April and caused a storm of protest.

Around 400 ex-staff had been given the passes - allowing free entry to council-run leisure centres - in recognition of long-service on retirement.

The authority reckoned it would save £500,000 - but this was disputed by opponents.

Now ex-staff have been told they can continue to use their passes after all.

Leader Cllr Phil Davies is now in the process of sending a letter to former staff saying: "While I understand the decision to withdraw these passes may have made sense from a purely business perspective, we made a commitment you could use our leisure facilities for life and I believe we should honour that commitment.

"Therefore it is my view that the council got this one wrong.

"I am therefore taking the decision to reinstate your passport for life with immediate effect. I have instructed the chief executive to make the necessary arrangements for that to happen."

Tory group leader Cllr Jeff Green said: "It was a petty and mean-spirited move and I'm glad Phil Davies has finally seen sense.

"But it would have been far better for all concerned if they'd never made the decision to take the passes back in the first place.

"It was typical of the cavalier attitude that has become the hallmark of this administration."

Wirral Unison branch secretary Paddy Cleary said: "We raised concerns about this from day one.

"It was always a step too far."

Former social worker Norman Meddle was leading the campaign to make the town hall think again and had threatened to pursue their case through the courts.

He said: “I would like to thank the all people involved in this campaign - once we said we were going to challenge this legally the council took another view.

“We couldn’t have taken our challenge this far without the help of Unison

“The campaign has been hard work and very tiring and now we can all get back to our lives. Everyone is really pleased.”