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latest update 12 March 2010

Friday, 16 January 2009

Wirral Council: 11 libraries and a leisure centre to close

Liverpool Echo - by Kevin Core

ELEVEN libraries and a leisure centre will shut after councillors approved a building closure programme.

The vast majority of Wirral council’s controversial strategic asset review, designed to save £3.1m, was rubber-stamped last night.

Beechwood, Eastham, Higher Bebington, Hoylake, Irby, New Ferry, Prenton, Ridgeway, Seacombe and Wallasey Village libraries will all shut.

They will be joined by Eastham and Woodchurch libraries, which were not part of the original proposal, and Grange Road West sports centre, in Birkenhead.

But Woodchurch leisure centre and Upton and Pensby libraries were given a last-minute reprieve by councillors.

Guinea Gap baths in Wallasey will stay open for another two years and Birkenhead central library will not close, although a different use will be found for the building if a new purpose-built library is created.

All the buildings earmarked for closure are now open to expressions of interest from community groups wanting to take on the task of running them.

The council plans to develop five new multi-purpose complexes in Bebington, Birkenhead, Liscard, Moreton and West Kirby.

Struggling to be heard over the whistles of a furious 400-strong crowd at a packed Wallasey town hall, council leader Steve Foulkes said they had listened to the public, but serious action was needed to balance Wirral’s books.

Ignoring chants of “who are you?”, several paper planes and a blood-soaked placard of his face, he added that the package would include £1.8m of “transitional funding”.

Cllr Foulkes said the shortfall from the original plan created by the reprieves would be picked up by council taxpayers.

He said: “If I was to get run over by a bus tomorrow, there would still be budgetary issues, and whoever sat in this seat would have to resolve them. We have made a big decision on your behalf.

“I hope the passion shown by people tonight can be conducted into the community coming together and keeping some of these facilities open. This has been a rewarding experience - it is the beginning of a new journey.”

Woodchurch Leisure Centre campaigner Alan Mason Whelan, 16, said: “While we are happy, it is hard to see so many sad faces coming out of this meeting.

“We were lucky, but the whole process was unnecessary - so many libraries were lost.”

Liscard councillor Leah Fraser said: “I am going to fight to make sure Guinea Gap baths are here long after Cllr Foulkes is gone.”

Conservative group leader Jeff Green said: “The cabinet has lost the plot.

“People expected them to come here, say they made a mistake and withdraw the proposal. Instead it is a few items on the back of an envelope designed to protect Labour and the Lib Dems politically and they should resign.”

© copyright Liverpool Echo. Reproduced under fair use for the dual purposes of comment and news reporting

Thursday, 15 January 2009

Foulkes "deeply regrets" Jim Crabtree email

Wirral Globe by Matt Hurst

LABOUR leader Cllr Steve Foulkes says his group "deeply regrets" the content of an email sent to library campaigner, Jim O'Neill by a party colleague, and has launched a disciplinary investigation.

Bidston Cllr Jim Crabtree responded to Mr O'Neill's email at 2am early Tuesday morning, telling the Hoylake man that he had had enough of receiving his "childish crap" in opposition to the council's strategic asset review.

Cllr Crabtree has since apologised, but now his group leader has weighed in to ensure the ongoing consultation process is seen to be "taken very seriously".

In a full statement, Cllr Steve Foulkes said: "We deeply regret any offence that may have been caused by the comments made in the heat of the moment by an individual Labour councillor to Mr O'Neill.

"The councillor concerned has apologised directly to Mr O'Neill, and this will be the subject of a disciplinary investigation by the chief whip of the Labour Group.

"The consultation around the strategic asset review has at times been very emotive and local councillors have faced a barrage of complaints from the public, frequently in less than temperate language.

"Members have until now done their best to respond in as constructive a manner as possible and pass on any comments they received as part of the consultation process, which they have taken very seriously.

"In this particular case a councillor made the mistake of replying late at night, when he was very tired, to the last of a series of emails from Mr O'Neill, which have included calling councillors traitors and suggesting this is a capital offence.
"He now deeply regrets this action."

Wirral Council's cabinet will meet at 6.15pm tonight (January 15) at Wallasey Town Hall to vote on proposals that would see more than a dozen libraries axed, along with leisure centres and swimming pools across the borough.

Rumours circulating ahead of the meeting suggest three or four facilities may be saved, if only temporarily.

Guinea Gap Baths and Woodchurch Leisure Centre may be given the opportunity to remain open until 2011, but nothing will be decided until tonight.

© copyright Wirral Globe. Reproduced under fair use for the dual purposes of comment and news reporting