Council tax will rise by 3.99% in Wirral while a closure-threatened care home’s future remains uncertain.
Wirral council’s ruling Labour cabinet today voted to axe £28m from its budget in response to government cuts and will increase council tax fees from April.
It also decided to let a consultation period on the closure of Girtrell Court – which provides respite care for people with disabilities – run its course.
The consultation ends in March, and unions hope that because the council did not approve its closure today that it might still remain open.
The final figures for next year’s Wirral council tax will not be be known until “precepts” – payments to support services such as fire, police and waste – are added in next month, but people living in average band D properties are likely to be spending £1 per week extra.
Dozens of protestors were outside Wallasey town hall this morning ahead of the council cabinet meeting to decide on its budget – and the future of Girtrell Court in Sauhall Massie.
Among the protestors was Peter Linnane whose son Mark, 33 suffers from cerebral palsy and epilepsy, and uses Girtrell Court.
Mr Linnane said the council had assured him and other carers that there was “alternative provision” to the council respite centre.
But he said: “I have done my research and that is not the case.
“From the original list of alternative respite providers they gave two had closed down the year before and two others had failed CQC (care watchdog) inspections.
“Then they were giving us addresses for old people’s homes which are no use to my son who is 33.”
Unison representative Paddy Cleary said the council’s plan to shut Girtrell Court “makes a mockery” of its stated commitment to protect the most vulnerable.
He presented to the cabinet a petition of 3,000 names opposing the closure and said: “People are shocked that the council is even considering doing this.”
The meeting also heard from Unite’s Allan Small who said: “I can’t believe we are even here talking about this proposal for the sake of saving £150,000 – that is the equivalent of some people’s (council officers) salaries in this room.”
Council leader Phil Davies said he understood people’s “fear of the unknown”. Cllr Davies said the council had “set clearly the direction of travel” for Girtrell Court to be replaced but added: “Let’s get to the end of the consultation.”
He said the council wants to offer Girtrell Court users “more choice”.
The cabinet meeting agreed to allow the consultation which is taking place with users of Girtrell Court to continue and the decision taken when it ends next month.
In the meeting the cabinet also agreed to halt plans to make savings on libraries, council staff to continue to take four days unpaid leave for another five years but retain pay enhancements for the lowest paid, and continue the current free swimming programme during school holidays.
After the meeting Mr Cleary from Unison said: “It’s a stay of execution for Girtrell Court. As with the libraries, where we showed there was no alternative provision – there is nothing else out there for the people using Girtrell Court and we need to show them that.”