CONTROVERSIAL parking meters have now been installed at Wirral's country parks.

The planned eight machines - covering Eastham, Thurstaston, Royden and Arrowe Parks - were approved by councillors during a budget cabinet in March last year.

The machines are expected to become operational at the end of the month.

The parking charges were among a raft of measures considered by the Labour group in a bid to raise extra cash to top-up threadbare budgets following Government cuts.

Motorists will now be charged 50p for the first hour, £1 for two hours or £2 all day in country parks.

A planned 20p increase on current tariffs was also approved.

The proposed fees sparked public outcry, with more than 20,085 residents signing petitions calling for them to be scrapped.

Following a call-in meeting to discuss the proposal last June Conservative councillor for Greasby, Frankby and Irby Tom Anderson said: "The move to introduce parking charges in the four country parks goes against the Council's own pledges about encouraging people to lead active lives.

"The whole idea is a shambles and will not only damage our country parks but also could end up costing the council money."

Cllr Stuart Whittingham, cabinet member for highways, said: "This council has to fill the £45m Tory Government cuts to Wirral.

"Our proposals of £1 for two hours parking or £2 for a full day, recognise the importance of the country parks to Wirral and our visitors and will raise badly needed revenue to provide the services Wirral residents enjoy.

"The income we will receive from this decision is, of course, a projection – as it would be from every new service, charge or product.

"Whatever funding it does generate will be reinvested into maintaining the parks, and continuing Wirral’s proud record of having more Green Flags than anywhere in the North West.

"Achievements like this do not happen by accident.

"They happen because the council invests major resources into protecting and improving our parks.

"Every year, as austerity continues to bite and the Tory Government continues to slash our budget, it gets harder to find this money."

Wirral's Liberal Democrat leader Phil Gilchrist said: "Those who wanted to impose these meters can huff and puff till they’re blue in the face.

"The public aren't convinced.

"I still think these are a backward step. A fair number of residents will park elsewhere.

"I for one don’t blame them."