THE death knell was sounded for Ellesmere Port & Neston Borough Council at 3pm yesterday (Tuesday).
It was then Local Government Minister John Healey announced the authority would be merged with its counterparts in Chester City and Vale Royal to form one “super-council” – known as a unitary council – covering the entire West Cheshire area.
Cheshire County Council will also be swept away by the biggest change in local government for more than 30 years.
Making the announcement, Mr Healey said: “This proposal is put to us by four local councils in Cheshire. It is not devised by the Government or imposed from the centre.
“We have judged it against five strict criteria, and it has proven that it is affordable, will save more than £16m per year, improve services, strengthen leadership and community empowerment, and holds a broad cross-section of local support.”
The historic news – expected two weeks ago but then delayed for further Government consideration – was joyously received by borough council leader Justin Madders.
Cllr Madders (Lab, Ledsham), who could lose his position and possibly even his seat when the new authority comes into being in 2009, said: “This is a wonderful Christmas present for Ellesmere Port and Neston.
“The new unitary council will create real and positive change in the way local government services are delivered.
“It will provide a one-stop shop for customers eliminating confusion over which council they need to speak to.”
Borough MP Andrew Miller said: “For years I have been convinced two-tier local government is an inefficient way of delivering services.
“The outcome announced today provides a sensible way forward that addresses both of these points and I call on all political parties to ensure we seek to set standards drawing from the best examples throughout the country.”
Cheshire County Council leader Paul Findlow said: “The Government has ignored its own criteria, and compelling financial evidence.
“In the meantime, we are committed to continue to provide excellent service delivery both up to and beyond transfer day, scheduled for April 1, 2009.”