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LIMITED USE: State of Wirral’s town halls

LIMITED USE: State of Wirral’s town halls

Wallasey Town Hall, where Wirral Council meets in normal times, Image: LDRS

Wirral’s main town hall is only getting “limited use” it was confirmed today, a fortnight after a damning report suggested the council could sell it.

The report, carried out by the Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy, includes strong criticism of elected councillors and officers, stating that the ‘prevailing culture’ at the council prior to the pandemic has been to avoid difficult financial decisions.

Wirral Council has had more than £220m taken from its budget by the government since 2010, but the report was clear that the council’s emergency reserves were too low and the authority needed to make changes to balance its books.

One of the report’s recommendations was for the local authority to consider selling libraries, leisure centres, golf clubs and Wallasey and Birkenhead Town Halls.

Many residents were deeply concerned about the prospect of losing libraries and leisure services.

Although some were similarly concerned by the idea that the town halls may be sold, many wondered what they were being used for.

This is particularly true in the case of Wallasey Town Hall, which was the base for Wirral Council’s meetings until the start of the pandemic.

The borough’s committees currently meet at New Brighton’s Floral Pavilion instead, as the council believes the building is better equipped for social distancing and ventilation.

Responding to the Liverpool Echo’s piece on the recent report into the council’s finances, one person said: “Why is the Town Hall [Wallasey] building not being used? Are they waiting for the vandals, it deserves better than turning into a block of flats.”

While another person said: “Wallasey Town Hall isn’t being used as it’s not suitable for anything in the modern day and it’s too costly to heat and maintain. As for building on that site, only a housing association would be interested.”

But today, the local authority confirmed the current state of play at Birkenhead and Wallasey Town Halls.

A Wirral Council spokesperson said: “Birkenhead Town Hall has remained operational throughout the pandemic and as well as being the base for our Registrars Service, is also being used for weddings, meetings, civic events and as office space for staff from our children’s services department.

“There remains limited use of Wallasey Town Hall, although there is access to the building for political groups and teams such as legal services who require access to records and other paperwork. Over the course of the pandemic, extensive works were undertaken to deal with asbestos issues and repair ceiling damage in the civic hall.

“Access to both buildings is being managed in accordance with the latest Covid guidance. And at both sites, surveys are being undertaken to update the condition and design of ventilation systems to meet new industry standards post-pandemic.”

 

Words: George Morgan, Local Democracy Reporter


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