“Mean-spirited” council chiefs told a long-serving employee to hand back his retirement gift – saying it was part of budget savings.
Town hall bosses in Wirral gave Mike Garbutt, 59, a lifetime pass to its leisure centres after he was forced to retire through ill-health after 34 years.
He was sent a letter after just nine months demanding the return of the pass.
Around 400 other former council staff who also received free access passes have also been affected, the council today revealed.
Mr Garbutt, from Wallasey , chose the pass to the borough’s leisure centres ahead of cash and gift voucher alternatives in the hope it would help his recovery from two brain haemorrhages.
He said: “It was great for me, obviously, to have the pass because I thought it would help with my recuperation.
“Then I got a letter saying they want it back – after nine months. I didn’t even get a year out of it.”
Mike, who had worked for the local authority’s parks and gardens department until last July, said: “It seems extremely mean spirited and out-of-touch.
“I know it’s not on the scale of care home closures, but it seems to me to sum up the uncaring attitude.
“I worked for the council for 34 years, and the annoying thing is when I was there I helped bring in £34m worth of grants.”
The letter from the council was sent on March 24 and said the withdrawal of the Passport for Life was due to “budget savings”, and would take effect from April 1.
It adds that Mr Garbutt can pay £15 a month for an ‘Invigor8’ leisure pass.
A council spokesman said: “Wirral Council has to reduce its spending by £28m for this coming year. We provide leisure services throughout the borough, which require almost £5m in subsidies to break even.
“Changes to leisure concessions were made as part of the budget setting process and were consulted widely on throughout January and February and agreed at council on March 3.
“To keep the centres financially viable and open for residents to enjoy, we are removing free access to the centres for a range of groups.
“This includes around 400 former council staff who received free access passes as part of a staff reward scheme.
“While we absolutely appreciate that this is disappointing for those people affected, we believe making these changes – which amount to in excess of £500,000 savings – will go a long way towards helping us retain a good leisure offer for Wirral residents.”