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Wirral Council 'wrong' to withdraw retirement gifts

Swimming Pool Image copyright Thinkstock
Image caption Retired council staff in Wirral were told in March that their leisure passes would be withdrawn

A Merseyside council has said it "got it wrong" when it asked former staff to return their retirement gifts of free lifetime leisure passes.

About 400 former employees who had worked for more than 25 years at Wirral Council were told in March their passes would be withdrawn due to funding cuts.

The local authority aims to save £28m from its budget this financial year.

Paddy Cleary, from the union Unison, said it was "encouraging" that the council had listened to concerns.

The passes for long-serving retired workers cost about £144,000, a council spokesman said.

'Budget pressures'

In a letter to retired staff, council leader Phil Davies said "the decision to withdraw these passes may have made sense from a purely business perspective" but the authority "should honour" its commitment.

"It is my view that the council got this one wrong," he added.

He said the initial decision to remove the passes was due to the "pressures local authority budgets are currently under".

Wirral Council runs eight leisure centres, which receive a total council subsidy of £4m.

'Gift for long service'

In March, former employee Mike Garbett called the original decision "unfair" as he was using the gym to help recover from a brain injury.

He chose the leisure pass as his retirement gift instead of a cash payment or high street voucher after 34 years working on the authority's parks.

A council spokesman confirmed the removal of gym concessions for Wirral residents aged over 65 would remain.

People under the age of 18 - who are not eligible for pupil premium funding - can no longer swim for free during the school holidays after the popular concession was also withdrawn.

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