Posted: 10.01.22 at 15:33 by George Morgan
Plans to close much-loved services in Wirral have left people feeling “devastated”.
On Friday, Wirral Council published proposals which could see two public golf courses, Woodchurch Leisure Centre and several libraries closed down.
There are also plans to permanently close the fun pool at Europa Pools in Birkenhead and nine public toilets.
The plans have been put forward as the authority needs to save £27m to produce a balanced budget this year.
However, they are not set in stone yet and will go through several committees where they can be changed or scrapped altogether.
One of the plans would see two public golf courses, Brackenwood in Bebington and Hoylake Municipal, close.
Keith Marsh, club secretary at Brackenwood Golf Club, said he was “totally and utterly devastated” about the plan to close the course.
Mr Marsh added: “We’ve got elderly members who have already said they are too old to move and can’t afford to go to private clubs for over £1,000 per year.”
The club secretary said Brackenwood was not just about golf, but about people supporting each other and that the sport helps people’s physical and mental wellbeing.
He said the council had pledged to invest in the course two years ago, only to now propose shutting it down.
Mr Marsh said: “This leaves the club and a lot of people in absolute limbo. I’m devastated.”
The plan to shut Europa’s fun pool has also upset many.
Although it is currently not open, this plan would see it permanently converted to form part of a gym.
Commenting on the plans on the Liverpool Echo’s Facebook page, Lisa Young said: “The council have bought new gym equipment with all the money that they don’t have and put it in the pool space. They are taking everything away from our kids. We don’t need more gyms.”
While Lorraine Wileman said: “Such a shame, great swimming pool.”
Elsie Nichols agreed, adding: “Try closing some council buildings, [there are] too many of them, and leave the swimming baths open.”
Liberal Democrat councillor Stuart Kelly, who has campaigned to save the pool, was also frustrated with the plan.
He said: “I would be sorry to see it go.
“I will be looking to see how it is possible to save the fun pool at least for the school holiday period when it is able to make a profit.”
On converting the fun pool space to gym facilities, Cllr Kelly added: “Birkenhead is full of private gyms, but it is not full of swimming facilities for young people.”
Mark Sopp, chair of Wirral Metro Swimming Club, said he was also “disappointed” with the move, but added that he understood the council needs to save money and that he was happy that the competition swimming pool will remain open.
On the cuts plan, a spokesperson for Wirral Labour said: “The Conservative government has told us that we must cut £27m from our spending this year – or they will do it for us by sending in the commissioners.
“Once we have paid for the services we must provide by law, this leaves very little leftover. This is against a backdrop of 11 years of austerity in which the government has slashed £225m from our budget.”
The spokesperson added: “Wirral Labour has fought hard for more than a decade to deliver these services but we have been told by the Conservative government that they are non-essential.
“Meanwhile local Conservatives have done nothing to challenge their own party chiefs about the way Wirral has been, and continues to be, treated. We haven’t heard a peep out of them criticising their own government’s cuts.”
For Wirral Council’s Conservative group, Cllr Tom Anderson said: “While other councils have focused on local services and transformed the way they are run, the Labour cabinet were obsessed on their vanity projects.”
Cllr Anderson gave the abandoned Hoylake Golf Resort project, plans for a community bank and property purchases, such as that of Birkenhead’s Vue Cinema, as examples.
He added: “It is residents of Wirral that will pay the price of their inability to manage the council’s finances properly. This dereliction of duty by previous Labour administrations leaves our libraries under threat.
“[It also means] maintenance stopping in 50% of our parks – turning them into abandoned wastelands, grass verges and open spaces abandoned, in addition to many other unpalatable proposals.”