WIRRAL council tax looks set to rise by at least 4.4 per cent this year.

A meeting of the council's "cabinet" saw the authority's leader Cllr Steve Foulkes put forward the proposal tonight.

But this does not include the statutory police and fire service levies, which will only increase the amount, albeit minimally.

If agreed by full council, the budget may see the town hall become a municipal bank offering services to both small businesses and residents - including mortgages.

However, the Conservative group - the largest party on the council but with no voice on the ruling cabinet as those seats are shared by the coalition Labour and Liberal Democrat administration - has said they did not expect a low increase in council tax this year despite the multi-million closures of leisure centres and libraries, That, they claim, will come next year in 2010 - when local elections take place in May. There are no local elections this year.

The Tories now have until Wednesday to draw up their response.

The final council tax figure will be decided at a meeting of the full council next Monday night.