THE Birkenhead branch of department store House of Fraser is earmarked for closure under a planned restructure of the business, it has been confirmed this morning.

It is one of 31 of the firm's 59 stores across the UK and Ireland affected by the proposals, which are subject to a 17-day consultation, which ends on June 22.

Wirral Council leader Phil Davies said the authority would do "everything it can" to support the staff whose jobs are at risk.

Commenting on the proposals, Frank Slevin, chairman of House of Fraser said: "The retail industry is undergoing fundamental change and House of Fraser urgently needs to adapt to this fast-changing landscape in order to give it a future and allow it to thrive.

"Our legacy store estate has created an unsustainable cost base, which without restructuring, presents an existential threat to the business.

"So whilst closing stores is a very difficult decision, especially given the length of relationship House of Fraser has with all its locations, there should be no doubt that it is absolutely necessary if we are to continue to trade and be competitive.

"We have had constructive dialogue with a number of key stakeholders to date, and we will continue this engagement over the next 17 days.

"Our immediate focus is on our colleagues with whom we are communicating openly and supporting at this time.”

Council leader Phil Davies told the Globe: "I pledge Wirral Council will do everything it can to support the people whose jobs are at risk following the House of Fraser announcement today.

"Again this shows how Britain's high streets are under immense pressure.

"Retail has changed and stores like House of Fraser are struggling to compete.

"If a major retailer like House of Fraser can’t make its flagship store on Oxford Street financially viable, then clearly something is going wrong and we need a new approach to our high-streets.

“The signs have been there for a while that how people shop, and what they expect from their town centres, is different than what is currently on offer.

"In Wirral we have recognised this dynamic shift and, working through Wirral Growth Company and with local businesses, we are close to unveiling ideas for a radical new town centre in Birkenhead.

"We will be bringing forward planning applications and resident consultations on these developments, which will create thousands of jobs for local people and make sure Birkenhead continues its resurgence and once again becomes a shopping destination for people all across our region.”

"Despite efforts to persuade House of Fraser to stay in the town, we are now focussed on building and strengthening relationships with existing retailers, independent operators and the food and leisure businesses who will make up an important part of the future for Birkenhead."

Birkenhead MP Frank Field said: "This makes the publication of, and action on, the Council’s plan to redevelop the centre of Birkenhead even more urgent."