WIRRAL council's opposition parties attacked Labour's "flawed" budget plans and suggested their own alternative policies – which include scrapping a “failing” council newspaper and cancelling proposed new parking charges - during a debate last night.

Labour’s budget for 2018/19 was approved at the full council meeting at Wallasey Town Hall after the council's two main opposition groups – the Tories and Lib Dems – had called for it to be referred back to the cabinet.

The measures, unanimously approved by Labour's cabinet members, were voted through with 35 votes for, 24 against and one abstention.

It means council tax increase will rise by almost 6% and there will be new charges for new coastal car parking and using public toilet.

The measures came after what council leader Phil Davies described as the Tory government’s "harsh austerity agenda" and the challenge to meet a £61m funding shortfall.

It will also see £750,000 slashed from the cost of senior management and a 30p charge for public toilets introduced.

Car parking charges of £1 for an hour or £2 for all day will be introduced at the Derby Pool and Kings Parade, New Brighton, at Leasowe Lighthouse and ‘the Gunsite’ and along North Parade between Hoylake and Meols and South Parade in West Kirby.

At the meeting on Monday, it was revealed there were various petitions against the scheme, totalling thousands of names.

The budget will see a combination of previously agreed savings, long-term transformation programmes, one-off funding and the implementation of the council tax precepts to bridge the majority of the funding shortfall.

Other policies include £1.5m being spent on extending LED lighting in the county borough and a pay rise to all staff of 3%.

Cllr Davies also lauded last week's announcement of the £1bn Wirral Growth Company that is set to regenerate the borough.

He said the 6% council tax increase was in response to the "social care crisis", adding that this year’s budget meant the "biggest amount we've ever had to save".

Cllr Davies said: "To sum up, I'm proud that Labour is delivering a balanced budget in the teeth of the most draconian cuts ever imposed on local government and that we have done this in line with our core principles of fairness and social justice.

"The proposals we have set out in our budget invests in our key priorities – keeping vulnerable children safe, growing the economy and protecting our environment."

The Conservative Group objected to the budget rather than setting its own specific proposals.

Group leader Cllr Ian Lewis said the party wanted a budget that reduces the use of management consultants it said has cost £2.6m in the last year being "used to support a senior management team costing another £1.4m".

The Conservatives said proposed parking charges in coastal areas and country parks should be cancelled, and the council-run "failing" Wirral View newspaper should be scrapped.

Under their budget, the money £140,000 saved would go to reinstate school crossing patrols.

Cllr Lewis said: "In a month’s time, people in Wirral will see the biggest rise in the state pension for six years while the lowest paid will receive a rise in the National Living Wage.

"The Cabinet's budget here in Wirral threatens to take away much of those increases, affecting some of the people who can least afford it.

"Instead of tinkering with a flawed budget, we are asking cabinet to come back with proposals that will cut the use of consultants and stop wasting money on vanity projects such as the Wirral View newspaper.

"Using the money that is saved would reduce the council tax rise and avoid parking charges in our coastal areas.

"Charges are killing off visitors to our parks already. Now cabinet wants to do the same for coastal areas.

"This to raise £150,000 from people who have the simple pleasure of visiting these areas.

"Many of them will now not be able to set foot outside of their cars.

"It's not rocket science – spend the money you collect on the services people need and expect."

Lib Dems The Liberal Democrats hold five seats on the council. On Monday, the party’s leader Cllr Phil Gilchrist announced his amendments.

They included abandoning the extension of car parking charges along with scrapping those recently introduced to country parks – totalling £400,000.

That’s as well as freeing up capital that could be spent on car parking machinery and using that money – an estimated £350,000 – to fund minor road improvements.

His party also called for limiting expenditure on consultants and interims by £260,000 and scrapping Wirral View – saving £140,000.

Cllr Gilchrist added: "The council is sailing really close to the wind. There is barely any room for manoeuvre.

"The waters are very choppy. There are more storms coming. Some are of Wirral's making. Local people are being asked to pay more when their pay and prospects are uncertain.

"They resent paying for parking in our country parks. These charges should be dropped. One thing is certain, Wirral still has to get the basics right."

Green Party councillor Pat Cleary also made his comments on the budget before Monday’s meeting.

After consulting "heavily" about how Wirral council uses public funds, he said the three most frequent complaints had been the salaries of senior council employees, Wirral View and the Hoylake golf resort scheme.

He described executives' salary as "excessive", saying they "created resentment among residents", and described Wirral View as "universally loathed".

He said Hoylake golf resort, set to deliver a high-end hotel, restaurants and more to the area, was "an executive housing development dressed up as a golf resort".

He added: "Residents are rightly furious that over £1m has already been spent and further costs and officer time will be incurred going forward while areas like Birkenhead are crying out for investment which would have broad public support."

Labour leader described the opposition parties' budget amendments, and said none of them were "credible".

He described the Conservative amendment as an “attempt at a wish list”, adding: "It must have taken not much more than three minutes. Has the Tory group given up?

"We have consistently cut the budget and wages of senior management. I am proud of that fact that we are the only party offering our staff a decent pay rise.

"The alternatives we’ve had tonight are not credible. We are proposing the only credible budget. We will protect our staff and deliver our pledges."