A WIRRAL councillor has slammed the authority’s £2m purchase of the former House of Fraser building in Birkenhead.

Earlier this week, it was confirmed that Wirral Council has bought the site which housed the department store before it closed in March last year.

Announcing the decision, the council said the £2m buy will ensure the building does not remain empty in the long-term and is not left open to third-party development which might add little to the town.

However, Conservative councillor Tom Anderson said: "This is another slap in the face for Wirral’s Council Tax payers.

"Only last year Labour councillors authorised spending £7m purchasing the Vue cinema in Birkenhead."

Given the council’s budget shortfall of £16m, Cllr Anderson thought the decision to buy the former House of Fraser site was wrong.

He said: "At a time when the council are consulting on moving to three weekly green [general waste] bin collections, introducing on street parking charges and closing Europa Pools, it would be better to put money into services which really make a difference to our residents’ lives.

"Yet again they have got their priorities wrong."

Cllr Janette Williamson, leader of Wirral Council, disagreed with his remarks.

The Labour councillor made the distinction between the capital budget, which is used for long-term investment projects, and the revenue budget, which is the money the council has to pay for day-to-day services such as bin collections and adult social care.

Cllr Williamson said: “The capital funding used to purchase the building cannot be used to plug holes in our revenue budget.

“I find it concerning that a councillor of Tom Anderson’s standing and experience either does not know the difference between capital and revenue spending, or is intentionally misleading residents in his statements.

“The slap in the face he talks about is his negativity towards ambitious regeneration plans from a council he is very much part of and which will benefit Birkenhead residents who have endured decades of decline.”

The Labour leader, who represents the ward of Liscard, argued that the purchase of the former House of Fraser site was just one part of a package which could transform Birkenhead.

Cllr Williamson added: “We are moving forward with ambitious plans to regenerate the town centre of Birkenhead which will lead to enduring and meaningful prosperity for our communities.

“We have already secured government backing for this considerable transformation through a £25m Future High Streets grant which will underpin the opportunity we have here to reimagine our town centre, to upgrade and enhance the built environment and to maximise the commercial possibilities that will be open to us.

“Having the demonstrable control, ownership and rigour, within the town centre space, to make those vital decisions on how and where we progress will be critical to achieving our goals and our long-term vision."