Like all Merseyside councils, Wirral must make swingeing cuts again this year to balance its budget.

More than £30m will have to be found to make the sums add up.

This comes after years of savage cuts following the financial crisis in 2008 and the news has triggered an almighty spat within the council.

Labour’s Janette Williamson, the cabinet member in charge of the budget, said Wirral Council has worked “incredibly hard” to deliver cuts without depleting services for years on end.

Meanwhile, she said, the council’s Tories had been “talking Wirral down” and undermining efforts to bring in more money to protect vital services, like childcare and adult social care.

All the more disappointing, Cllr Williamson thought, given it is the Conservatives at national level who have cut £250m from the council’s budget since 2010.

A sense of frustration was clear in Cllr Williamson’s comments.

She added: “[Cllr Ian Lewis, leader of the council’s Conservative group] has not been fully engaged in the budget setting process on the Wirral.

“He did not present an alternative budget last year, and has not approached me this year with any income generation or savings proposals for this year.

“The Wirral Conservative group has done nothing, either when in power or any other time over the last decade, to encourage more investment into Wirral.

“They have consistently opposed projects and ideas that would generate income to the Council, whilst adding nothing positive themselves.”

In an effort to protect frontline services, Wirral Council has proposed a range of technical savings, involving measures like repaying long-term debts more slowly to provide more money in the here and now.

These savings add up to £27m of the total £32m the council must deliver from April 2020-21.

The council has also identified savings it can make in adult social care and children’s services.

By moving looked after children to lower cost providers, Wirral Council believes it can save just over £1m.

In adult social care, measures including better technology to prevent falls and moves to deliver more independence for those in care are predicted to save £4m.

But due to the way council finances are calculated, these savings will enable Wirral Council to put £6.4m into adult social care and children’s services at the same time.

For Cllr Williamson, this was evidence the council has protected the borough from the consequences of austerity.

She added: “The Labour administration has been determined not to allow Tory austerity to damage Wirral or lower our ambitions for our borough.

“From initiatives such as our Community Wealth Building programme and focus on ‘Keep it Local’, we are ensuring money isn’t sent out of Wirral to line the pockets of multinational companies.

“But instead help local businesses, to our ambitious plans for regeneration across the east of the borough which are now becoming a reality.”

But Cllr Ian Lewis strongly disagreed.

He said: “10 years ago, Wirral Council, like every other council, was told the main government grant was being phased out and, instead, councils would receive income they generated from business rates and by building the new homes that are needed.

“Unlike most, Wirral sat back and did little or no work on either encouraging new businesses or building new homes on brownfield sites.

“Instead, Labour councillors have sent numerous letters pleading with different government ministers, all to no avail.”

This is consistent with the Wirral Tory’s line of argument since the recession.

They argue the council should be adapting to the new state-of-play, but instead it has been wasteful and made a number of costly errors.

Cllr Lewis consistently brings up the expense of much-maligned ventures – such as the council’s now-abandoned plan to lend £26m to developers hoping to build a luxury golf resort in Hoylake, at town hall meetings to support his case.

But he also argued the national picture was improving.

He said: “Since December’s election, the government announced extra cash for adult social care, urban regeneration and environmental improvements, following an extra £3m for road repairs.

“Yet, even with that extra money, Labour is still struggling to make ends meet. It’s not hard to see why – financial controls on how Council Tax is spent have been exposed as being weak or even non-existent.

“In the first six months of the current financial year, a staggering £28.9m was spent without authorisation by any senior manager.”

Therefore, Cllr Lewis thinks Wirral Council’s Labour administration is to blame for the tough times and not the government.

He added: “The answer to yet another financial crisis in the Town Hall rests solely with the Labour cabinet.

“There is no silver bullet or magic solution – they simply have to do what every taxpayer in Wirral knows – live within their means, spending money on the services we need from the money we collect in Council Tax and Business Rates.”

Wirral Council’s cabinet will debate the budget for the next financial year on February 17, before it goes to full council on March 2.