WIRRAL council is set to make more than £1m from the sale of a World War I memorial field – then hand the money over to Tranmere Rovers to invest in the club's new training facility.
The revelation comes just as the authority said it would cease its £100,000-a-year sponsorship of the club as the council struggles to balance its budget, slashes jobs and services and prepares to close a day centre for the disabled.
A report which will be presented to the council’s ruling cabinet this week said the council could receive the money for releasing a covenant which prevents Tranmere – who own the land – from building on the Ingleborough Road site.
Last year, Tranmere got planning permission to build up to 90 new homes at Ingleborough Road which was once the playing fields for the Birkenhead Institute school and also contains a memorial to the 88 former pupils of the Institute – including the poet Wilfred Owen – who died in WWI.
A linked planning application was also approved for a training facility at Woodchurch leisure centre which would also include community use, according to the application.
According to the council document, the sale of the site could realise £5m, of which £3.6m would be used to clear TRFC bank borrowing and there would be a £1m covenant payment to Wirral council “to be reinvested into Woodchurch” with £400,000 for tax.
Tranmere would contribute £830,000 towards the cost of the Woodchurch leisure centre improvements.
But Dean Johnson, who has led the campaign against Tranmere's plans for Ingleborough, said the council should “rethink how they spend this potential windfall of £1m”.
He said the proposals were “outrageous at a time when there is a black hole in the council budget, they're closing care homes and getting rid of staff”.
He said: “The cabinet are being told there are marketing and publicity benefits to the borough derived from the presence of a professional football team, but these can't outweigh the national scandal of selling off the memorial to the brave men who, it seems, gave their lives so cheaply.”
Tranmere Rovers said they had no comment about the council report. However, the council says the £2.5m plan for Woodchurch would improve facilities available to the community at the leisure centre.