Hundreds of placard-waving protesters gathered outside Wallasey Town Hall earlier this evening as Wirral's ruling alliance of Labour and Liberal Democrat councillors met to debate huge spending cuts which have become the centre of a public outcry.
Fourteen libraries, three leisure centres and the Pacific Road arts venue are to be shut in the massive cost-cutting exercise.
Conservative councillors and members of the public were barred from speaking at the meeting of the "cabinet", which has voted to begin a six-week consultation period over their proposals.
Council leader Steve Foulkes admitted he has had "sleepless nights" since the cuts were announced on Tuesday.
He said he realised that the closure of libraries, village halls and community centres would be a "tough transition period."
But he reiterated that "doing nothing was not an option."
The cut backs are part of the local authority's "assets review".
A further 20 council properties including the former Birkenhead town hall in Hamilton Square, Leasowe Recreation Centre and a string of council-funded community centres and village halls across the borough also face being transferred to “community management” - where staff and funding are withdrawn to be replaced with volunteers and fundraisers.
The council admits that the drastic changes “will have significant implications for staff affected”, and that many of the buildings - like Birkenhead Library - face being mothballed or demolished.
The Labour/Liberal Democrat plan intends to offset the closures by investing £20m over a four-year period to provide "better but fewer" council-owned buildings for public use.
Tory group leader Cllr Jeff Green branded the consultation as a "sham" and claimed the decision to swing the axe had already been made.
Wirral's four Labour MPs are locked on collision course with the authority over the cuts.
They are holding a crisis meeting with leading council officers and politicians tomorrow afternoon, during which they will demand a halt is called to the closure plans.
The results of the consultation exercise will be reported to the cabinet on January 15.