BUDGET CUTS: Plans to close three of Wirral’s four public golf courses
Residents are up in arms about a plan to close three of Wirral’s four public golf courses.
Golf clubs at Arrowe Park, Brackenwood, in Bebington, and The Warren, in Wallasey, could close as Wirral Council looks for ways of saving money to address a £16.5m shortfall in its budget.
If the cuts were to go ahead, the borough would be left with just one public golf course, Hoylake Municipal, which the LDRS understands the council must continue running to ensure the Royal Liverpool Golf Club can host the 2023 Open Championship.
Plans sent out to the public said the closure of all four courses could save the authority £273,000, however it is understood that this has been reduced to £180,000 given that Hoylake Municipal must remain.
Responding to a post on Bebington Community Page, a Facebook group which covers the area in which Brackenwood Golf Course is based, many locals slammed the council’s proposals.
On the prospect of closure, one person said: “No way. We need our open spaces and the pleasure [they bring].”
Another said: “I don’t even like golf, [but] during this lockdown people are using the golf course for exercise, oxygen, vitamin D, gathering their thoughts and enjoying the green belt area. We need to fight this.”
Summing up the thoughts of many in the group, a fellow member said: “Just how much does it cost to maintain a golf course.
“It gives so much enjoyment to so many local people just to see the beauty of the trees and enjoy the green space.”
Local politicians also disagreed with the idea of closing the course.
Cllr Jerry Williams, who represents Bebington, said: “The golf course is pivotal. It must be kept at all costs.”
Cllr Williams added that as a person who has been involved in sport for 40 years, he thought the borough’s golf courses had to remain, noting the mental health benefits of exercise.
The Labour councillor added: “We all know the problem. It’s national government cuts to local authorities which put them between a rock and a hard place every year.”
Jason Walsh, who is standing as a Green Party candidate in Bebington in May’s local elections, said he opposed the closure of Brackenwood Golf Course.
Mr Walsh added: “It is an important green space for people to golf, walk or run and I would dread to think what it could become should it be closed or sold.”
Defending Wirral Council’s officers at a meeting on January 21 which discussed potential cuts including those to golf courses, David Armstrong, the authority’s assistant chief executive, said there is a simple reason the savings have been proposed.
It was the pandemic, which first made the news in Wirral when a coach full of coronavirus evacuees from Wuhan arrived in the borough almost an entire year ago.
The virus had “crippled” the council’s budget and changed everything, he said officers did not need to be convinced of the importance of the services under threat, but that they had to set a balanced budget.
Labour councillor Janette Williamson, the council’s leader, said no decisions have been taken on the budget so far and that the council is currently assessing feedback from the public consultation.
Conservative councillor Tom Anderson, who chairs the authority’s tourism and leisure committee, said: “Golf is an integral part of Wirral’s leisure offer. With the Open returning to Wirral in 2023, now more than ever, it is critical to have a comprehensive, affordable golf offer to Wirral residents.
“It now transpires, on legal advice, that [Hoylake Municipal] cannot now be included the review. It is my belief, that given time, our municipal golf courses can increase their offer – bringing more revenue into the council.
“No decisions have yet been made. I very much hope that when it’s time for a decision to be made colleagues, across all political parties, take into account the substantial public feeling, the amount of savings vs potential revenue income and recent scrutiny review recommendations to enhance and invest in Wirral’s golf courses.”
Words: George Morgan, Local Democracy Reporter
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