THE eye-watering amount cash-strapped Wirral Council spent on a seven-screen Vue cinema has been revealed.

Wirral council splashed out £7.1m on the 1,756-seater Vue Cinema in Birkenhead, in a move it's hoped will mean a "stream of income" for the local authority – despite also needing to find £45m of savings over the next year.

The authority said it was part of a plan to "completely reshape and reinvigorate the town".

But today, the authority was slammed for a lack of "common sense" by the main opposition party over the amount, which was revealed in cabinet documents.

Cllr Ian Lewis, leader of the Conservative group, said: "It seems the Labour Party has switched from lending our money to other councils and is now spending millions on commercial property deals instead.

"For eight years, Labour has told us there is no money left – no money for New Ferry, no money for road safety and no money for road and pavement repairs.

"Yet, when something takes their fancy, the cash is miraculously found."

It was reported in November that the move to buy the cinema formed part of a "master plan" for the rebirth of Birkenhead – one of Merseyside's most challenged town centres.

It is hoped the plan will transform the town and create thousands of new jobs under proposals by the Wirral Growth Company and a wide-ranging project for the Europa Boulevard site.

The information has been revealed in budget documents set to be discussed by the council's cabinet on Monday.

If approved, they will be put forward to full council for final approval.

It is believed the site will continue to be run by Vue, but instead be owned by the council.

And as well as owning the cinema, the authority has also taken back control of Birkenhead Market this month – for the first time in 15 years.

That was in a bid to "secure its immediate future".

A consultation on the redevelopment of Birkenhead town centre, which will include a new market – will begin later this year.

Explaining the decision to buy Vue, Cllr Angela Davies, cabinet member for jobs and growth, said: "Like almost every council up and down the country, we have had to look at other ways to generate income as our grants from central government are drastically reduced.

"We are investing in the future of Wirral.

"Our regeneration of Birkenhead, which includes creating grade-A office space, a new leisure centre, retail units and a purpose built market, will create hundreds of new jobs and apprenticeships, and revitalise the town centre.

"Purchasing the cinema building, alongside taking back the freehold of Birkenhead Market and buying the Europa Buildings, allows us to completely reshape and reinvigorate the town centre.

"It's an investment to regenerate Birkenhead, to create jobs, prosperity and economic growth."

The council said that currently, without a brick having been laid on regenerating products, divided from the Wirral Growth Company is £5.5m revenue, which "can be reinvested into services".

The council said that figure will rise to "over £70m-plus over the next five years".

Other aspects included in the budget for the coming year include £1.3m to be invested into buying "key properties" in New Ferry – the community devastated by a huge explosion in March 2017.

Also included is £100,000 to demolish the vacant Seacombe Community Centre. The report said a "number of" community organisations had expressed interest in taking it over, but that running costs meant the centre was "uneconomically viable".