CHESHIRE County Council leader Paul Findlow has strongly criticised Whitehall’s decision to split governance of the county into two halves.
The Government last month announced its intention to replace the existing county council and six district councils with just two one-stop councils covering East and West Cheshire.
The county’s bid to set up one council for the whole of Cheshire was rejected as being “too big” but the authority is considering mounting a legal challenge to the decision.
Councillor Findlow is in the awkward position of not supporting his authority’s official position. Instead he has consistently followed the national Conservative Party line which is to support reform of the existing system.
He said: “The Government has ignored its own criteria, and compelling financial evidence. Even so, assuming the Government’s proposal survives any remaining hurdles, we must then ensure a proper and efficient handover to the new Cheshire authorities.
“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.”
Cheshire’s Liberal Democrat Leader blasted the decision to split the county in two as “appalling”.
County councillor Sue Proctor said: “Hazel Blears’ decision flies in the face of reason, common sense and the weight of evidence and representations presented to the Government – not only from the county council but also from the many individuals and organisations who recognise the consequences of splitting the county in two.”
She continued: “I am appalled at the sly manner in which the announcement to abolish Cheshire and its six districts was made public.
“Hiding behind a written statement almost suggests the minister is embarrassed by her decision and announcing it just as Parliament breaks up for Christmas perhaps means she hopes all the fuss will have disappeared by the time she has to face the House in the New Year.”
County Labour group leader Derek Bateman welcomed the Government decision to simplify the structure of local government even though his group would have preferred the county option of one council for Cheshire.
He said: “We welcome the Government’s final decision on the future of Cheshire and the fact that doubt has been removed for everyone concerned.
“We must now do our best with our district colleagues to make this option work.”