A LEISURE centre, libraries and golf courses are under threat, as Wirral Council looks to solve its £20m budget black hole.

Current plans, which could be changed following public consultation and committees, would see 11 libraries, Woodchurch Leisure Centre and two public golf courses closed down.

The proposals are being made after two damning government reports, published last November, criticised Wirral Council for failing to make tough financial decisions and said it needs to spend less on leisure services.

But there is one way these services could be saved which seems to be gaining a hearing among councillors, a way of keeping things open and having groups of local residents run them.

In a show of the strength of feeling on the cuts plan, a petition to save Hoylake Library has gained 1,009 signatures on the website change.org at the time of writing.

One of the petitioners, Helen van Marle, said: “This library is vital for the residents of Hoylake. It has been a huge part of this community for as long as I can remember and it still is.

“Not everyone is able to get to West Kirby. Don’t take away everything that we have, books and learning will always be needed and we love our local library.”

A Community Asset Transfer (CAT) allows local people to take over the running of facilities such as libraries and leisure centres from public bodies such as Wirral Council.

The local authority’s website said the services must then be community-led with local people able to control decision making and the main function of the service must not be commercial.

Cllr Janette Williamson, leader of Wirral Council, said: “There are real challenges around the budget, and the recommendations dictated from government have focused on our libraries and leisure services.

“However, we are committed to working with local groups to find ways to give them the chance to manage community buildings, and mitigating the worst of these enormous Tory cuts.”

In further comments which will give hope to those hoping to not see the end of their much-loved local leisure service, the Labour councillor added: “We will support groups across the borough to make representations to officers, and advise them [on] how to put strong and sustainable business cases forward.

“We have seen this work well across the borough, in sites such as Byrne Avenue Baths in Rock Ferry and Heswall Hall.

“The last thing anyone wants is to see these resources close, and we are doing everything in our power to help put them into the hands of the communities who cherish them.

“We are hopeful that the government listens to us and agrees our approach going forward is the right one for our residents.”

Wirral Council praised the good CATs can do on its website.

A section on CATs read: “Wirral Council believes that community asset transfer is fundamentally about giving local people and community groups greater control in the future of their area and their community.

“If local groups own or manage community buildings – such as community centres or village halls – it can help foster a sense of belonging and bring together people from different backgrounds.”

This week, Andrew McCartan, Wirral Council’s assistant director for leisure, libraries and customer engagement, commented on how the authority would handle applications for CATs.

Speaking at a tourism and leisure committee on January 18, he said the council will consider each request for a CAT and do the due diligence required.