Liverpool

Wirral Council staff told to hand back lifetime leisure passes

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Media captionMike Garbett, 59, is one of 400 former Wirral Council staff told to hand back lifetime leisure passes

Four hundred former council staff in Wirral have been told to hand back lifetime leisure passes given to them as retirement gifts.

The council said it was withdrawing Passport for Life for employees who had 25 years service to save money.

Former employee Mike Garbett, 59, said the decision was "unfair" as he was using the gym to help his recovery from a brain injury.

The council said the decision is part of £28m budget savings due next month.

The cuts include removing concessions for people aged over 65 and swimming for under-18s in the school holidays.

Mr Garbett, opted for the free leisure pass as his farewell retirement gift instead of a cash payment or high street voucher after 34 years working on the authority's parks.

He said: "I thought with my health condition it was an ideal gift and it has greatly aided my recovery."

'Penny pinching'

Mr Garbett, who has a brain condition, said: "First I was upset, now I am angry. How penny pinching and mean spirited.

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Image caption The cuts will also hit under 18s who could swim for free in the school holidays

"Morally I think they are wrong."

He added: "I doubt if they would have asked for the high street vouchers or the cash back - this was a gift for my long service."

Conservative councillor Chris Blakeley said it was outrageous that "some of the lowest-paid but longest-serving staff are now being told to return their retirement gift."

He added: "Can you imagine any other employer basically going into someone's living room and removing the pensioner's carriage clock?"

A council spokesman said removing free access to leisure centres for around 400 former council staff would help keep the centres financially viable.

"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."

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