Welcome to Wirral - what's left of it!
IF YOU drive through the Wallasey Tunnel from Liverpool you are greeted on the other side by a huge banner sign saying: "Welcome to Wirral: please drive carefully."
How dull. How boring. How utterly lacking in ambition and imagination.
And how appropriate for a borough such as Wirral - where everything that used to be bold, brash or beautiful has been diminished or demolished over the past 35 years by an overblown municipality.
Yes, folks, things have steadily gone downhill since 1974, when great clunking Death Star that is Wirral Council replaced a group of smaller and perfectly functional town councils, including historic county boroughs with their own police and education services, such as Birkenhead and Wallasey.
It was the same piece of hateful, hurtful local government reform in '74 that attempted to wipe out people's cultural identity on both banks of the Mersey - as proud people of Lancashire and Cheshire - by inventing a county with the ugly name of Merseyside (now thankfully consigned to the dustbin of history).
Wallasey, which includes New Brighton, has seen decline on a truly spectacular scale. Since Wirral Council took over, Wallasey has lost: its college of further education; its stately home Liscard Hall (allowed to fall apart, burn down and then be demolished); the magnificent open air bathing pool in New Brighton; loads of hotels and pubs; its shopping centre (Liscard is now a joke as a shopping centre, it hasn't even got a bookshop).
Also: Wallasey no longer has a cinema; its hospital, Victoria Central, has been demoted to a place which does little more than treat minor scratches and burns; and the police station is barely operational compared to how it used to be buzzing thirty-odd years ago. Pathetic!
I'm not saying everything is Wirral Council's fault but while it has been in existence - despised by the public and representing no particular local community - one landmark building and facility after another has disappeared, to be replaced with mean-spirited blocks of bug-hutch flats everywhere.
Now Wirral Council is really turning the screw on its communities, wanting to shut down:14 of the borough's 24 libraries; three leisure centres (including swimming facilities serving some of the most deprived urban areas in Britain); two museums and a theatre.
The council also wants to "transfer" 20 village halls and community halls into the hands of unpaid volunteers.
It's a proposed slaughter of civic amenities and heritage that's being driven forward under the sinister doublespeak title of Transforming Wirral.
Of course, the ultra-defensive council points to the rebuilt Floral Pavilion in New Brighton as evidence of its determination to modernize assets.
But, as was obvious on recent local television news programmes, the new Floral has been created in the corporate, soulless style so beloved of civic pen-pushers. It has none of the character of the old, demolished, Floral.
The front brickwork of the new theatre and so-called conference centre is already stained and shabby looking - and the place has only been open a few weeks!
And here's another unfortunate fact to consider... The Floral's new auditorium - currently hosting a panto with actors no-one's heard of and no-marks from moronic local radio - is actually SMALLER in terms of seating capacity than the one it replaced! So much for the bright new future on offer...
All of which brings me back to the big sign that greets people entering the peninsula from the Wallasey tunnel.
I think the wording should be changed to reflect the awful reality of what's happened to the place under Wirral Council misrule. I suggest it should read...
"WIRRAL - you're welcome to it!"