A COUNCIL tax increase of almost five per cent has been agreed by Wirral's ruling Labour cabinet.

It came with a pledge that cuts to public services will only be brought in as "a last resort." 

Higher paid town hall managers have been warned their jobs will be axed if necessary to divert cash into services such as road repairs, child safeguarding and protecting the vulnerable.

The authority says it is facing its "most challenging ever" budget with £45m cuts in government funding this year.

Cabinet councillors met this morning and unanimously backed a tax increase of 4.99% along with a range of savings and schemes to raise revenue.

The rise includes a 3% precept to help relieve a financial crisis in adult social care and children's services, which were heading to bust their budgets by £3.4m and £5.3m respectively.

An increase of £400,000 per year is expected from garden waste collection subscriptions by raising the charge by £5 to £45 and removing the £5 discount for those who join the scheme online.

And a £200,000 budget divided between Wirral's four Constituency Committees will be axed, although this is a one-off saving and funding will be reinstated next year.

On the plus side half-a-million pounds has been earmarked to repair the borough’s street lights and £50,000 to tackle environmental issues.

As revealed last week controversial plans to introduce parking charges on 50 streets were dropped, although pay-and-display will be brought in at country parks.

Council leader Cllr Phil Davies said: "This has been an extremely difficult budget for us to deliver.

"We are facing a massively unfair local government funding system which favours more affluent local authorities in the south over those the north.

"To minimise impact on residents we are proposing rolling out savings across four years.

"Even to do this we must seek government approval first and of course they will set conditions.

"Service reductions will be the last resort, with very minimal direct cuts and instead reductions in senior management and higher paid staff."

He added: "The Conservative’s vision is of a country where residents are left to fend for themselves.

"The clock is being turned back in Wirral - it's like a return to the 1980s. Ultimately we have to say enough is enough."

Labour colleague Cllr Bernie Mooney added: "This country is in absolute crisis. I don’t know where it’s going to end."

Conservative group leader Cllr Jeff Green said: "Setting a budget is all about priorities.

"Labour is hell-bent on charging people for using country car parks and wasting money publishing a town hall newspaper that not many householders in Wirral have ever seen.

"They are crying crocodile tears as usual but there's always plenty of cash to fund their own pet projects.

"The fact is the Labour group have got their priorities wrong.

"If they don’t believe they can do the job then they should get out of the way and let us do it."

The budget must now be ratified by a meeting of the full council on March 6.