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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

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