WITH fewer than 100 days to go to the launch of the new Cheshire West and Chester Council, key national and local politicians are looking to the future.
The half billion pound authority, with about 15,000 staff, will succeed Cheshire County Council, Chester City Council and Ellesmere Port and Neston and Vale Royal Borough Councils on April 1.
Its leader, former lord mayor of Chester Cllr Mike Jones (Con), said: “The New Year will signify a major milestone for many people but for those involved with the creation of Cheshire West and Chester, it highlights a three month countdown to our new council.
“With this timescale in mind, I am delighted to report that we are on track to achieve our core aim - to create a new and dynamic council for residents of Cheshire West and Chester on April 1.
“Since the election on May 1, members of the shadow council have been working with enthusiasm and determination to deliver a council that residents, businesses and stakeholders in Cheshire West and Chester will be proud of.
“Our aim is to ensure that there is a seamless transition of services from the existing councils to the new council. Central to our thinking are the needs of our customers and we are determined to create a council that will make a real difference to people's lives.”
In Westminster, local government minister John Healey says the biggest transformation of local government for 30 years will affect more than 3.2 million people across England.
He is calling on the new councils to step up their efforts to explain to local people how the changes will make a difference to their lives through better services, a bigger say in local decisions and stronger community leadership through these tough economic times.
Mr Healey points out the the new councils are committed to make combined savings of over £100m, which can be re-invested in front-line services or used to reduce pressure on council tax.
The minister, who has visited the new Cheshire West and Chester Council as part of series of sessions with the new authorities and with residents who will be affected by the change, says he has been impressed with the efforts which are being made to ensure the new councils will be up and running delivering top quality services from day one.
But he feels more needs to be done to explain the changes to the public itself, especially the benefits they will bring.
“In 100 days time 44 councils across seven counties will be replaced with nine new unitary councils, serving over three million people,” said Mr Healey.
“This represents the biggest transformation of local government for 30 years and means that 60% of the population will now be served by single unitary councils.
“This isn't a bureaucratic process of redrawing maps or changing names, and it's not a 24-hour makeover.
“This is about making a real difference to people's lives.
“These new councils have committed to delivering better services, giving people a bigger say in decisions that affect them and making combined savings of over £100m to be re-invested in front-line services or used to reduce pressure on council tax.
“And through stronger leadership they will help their communities ride out these tough economic times”.
He added: “From my visits to all of these areas I have seen first hand the huge efforts being made to ensure councils are not only up and running but also delivering top quality services from day one.”
The minister says he is confident plans are on track and efforts will continue up to April 1.
But he insists local people should know what to expect from their new council “from day one”.