The war of words over Wirral Council's financial "black hole" was stept up this week with Labour claiming that council leader Cllr Jeff Green was "fiddling while Wirral burns."

Cllr Green exclusively revealed to the Globe that the council would need to reduce its spending by a massive £80m over the next three years. He said urgent action was needed to prevent meltdown and promised full consultations with residents, community representatives, faith groups and voluntary organisations to determine prioity measures.

The Labour group however claimed that Cllr Green was out of his depth in the crisis. Deputy Labour group leader Cllr Phil Davies accused: "Cllr Green is fiddling while Wirral burns. As long as he chases cheap headlines and bats all issues into the long grass the crisis will continue to deepen.

"Every month that goes by without decisions increases the risk that council workers will lose their jobs and residents their services - not because of the financial crisis, but because the incompetence of local politicians has dramatically increased the scale of cuts necessary. He will literally have talked us into disaster."

Cllr Green hit back: "I am astonished that Cllr Davies, who presided over the financial mess that the council now finds itself in, has the barefaced cheek to criticise anyone. Rather than sitting in a bunker and issuing orders to officers to try to wipe out a whole swathe of much-loved services, we want to talk to the people of Wirral about the scale of the problem and the best ways to tackle it.

"This seems to be a perfectly reasonable approach. It takes time but we want to be open and honest about the scale of the problem."

Cllr Davies said the Tory-Liberal Democrat coaltion had to find £24.4m savings by March next year and a further £57m over the following two years.

He commented: "On a pro rata basis that means that next year alone nearly £8m has to be cut from adults social services; over £6m from children's services, over £2m from cultural services, nearly £2m from housing and regeneration and over £2m from technical serices, covering highway maintenance, traffic schemes and bin collections.

"If anyone thinks this can be achieved without affecting front-line services, and without disproportionately affecting the poorest and most vulnerable members of our community, they are kidding themselves."

He added: "Given the scale of the financial challenge now facing the council we expected to see, at the least,a list of costed options for savings which would give the council a good start towaards reaching its target.