CHESTER City Council has met for the final full session in its 34 year history.
Lord Mayor Cllr Brian Bailey and Labour leader Cllr John Price (Blacon Hall), who were members of the original council, were amongst those gathered in the Town Hall Assembly Room for the occasion, described by the Lord Mayor as "historic".
The council is expected to have a short formal meeting at the end of March shortly before it makes way for the new Cheshire West and Chester Council which is taking over from the City and County councils, Ellesmere Port and Neston Borough Council and Vale Royal Borough Council.
The annual budget meeting normally held in February, which in earlier years, on occasion, continued into the small hours to enable negotiations and discussions between political parties in the traditional smoke filled rooms, now long gone, is not needed as council spending for 2009/10 will be decided by the new authority.
Meetings of the full council have recently been held in the assembly room as councillors have been evicted from the council chamber itself due to multi million pound refurbishment works being carried out to the crumbling grade two star listed town hall.
Large portraits of former city fathers, including the present Duke of Westminster, which have looked down on previous meetings, were absent as they have been removed in readiness for the redecoration of the assembly room. After councillors had agreed further changes to a reducing list of deposit taking institutions to which they are prepared to lend money, the lord mayor steered the council through a lengthy list of 14 questions including ones from former lord mayors Barry Cowper (Lab, Elton) and Jim Latham (Lib Dem, Boughton Heath) on gypsy and traveller sites and the need for a performing arts venue in the city centre respectively.
Another former lord mayor, Cllr Reggie Jones (Lab, Blacon Lodge), who is to continue on the new council, probed the effect of the free after three campaign and parking charges to blue badge holders.
He unsuccessfully sought to persuade development portfolio holder Cllr Stuart Parker (Con, Christleton) to divulge confidential information on the Northgate Development.
City centre councillor Gwyn Cooper (Lab, City & St Anne's) raised questions about the protection of the Odeon cinema building and later referred to buses parking with their engines running.
The high number of empty retail properties and the level of business rates, which are set nationally, was raised by Tarvin Cllr Barbara Roberts (Con) while Lib Dem leader Cllr Paul Roberts (Farndon) suggested there had been a decline in the arrangements for some refuse collection services since the Tory administration took over.
College ward Lib Dem councillor David Mead asked about the future of conservation areas, Mollington Cllr Brian Crowe (Con), who is chairman of the Cheshire West and Chester Council, referred to action being taken to help the community "during these troubled times of the credit crunch and the severe economic depression" and former cabinet member for wellbeing Cllr Mia Jones (Lib Dem, Dodleston) raised issues relating to the Chester Homebuy scheme and the help available to vulnerable households to manage their debt.
Tattenhall Cllr Carol Weaver (Con) referred to disabled facilities grants while Cllr Andrew Garman (Lib Dem, Kelsall) sought the views of council leader Cllr Margaret Parker (Con, Mickle Trafford) on a rebate to parish councils which is not be continued by the new authority, which she declined to reveal.
Former Lord Mayor Cllr Graham Proctor (Lib Dem) congratulated the all party team which is working on business issues in the current financial climate.
During a recess, the political antennae of Labour strategist Cllr Bob Rudd (Boughton) were hard at work as he believed that part of the assembly room occupied by the Tory administration was better heated than the Labour benches.
Conservatives including Cllr Hilarie McNae (Upton Grange), Cllr Jeanne Storrar (Saughall) and Cllr Ann Wright (Malpas) disagreed and spent most of the meeting wrapped in their overcoats.
After managing director Mr Chris Hardy had to absent himself from his own council meeting while councillors agreed his leaving terms, a short extraordinary meeting took place on the conferment of civic honours including honorary aldermen, honorary freeman and the Order of the Gates.