ONCE Runcorn and Widnes were synonymous with heavy industry and pollution.
Now that is largely a thing of the past. Economic development on the Widnes waterfront has transformed the old image of pollution and chemicals, with the result that long-running concerns about health and the environment are no longer the major concern at local elections.
Labour control of Halton Council - a unitary authority since 1998 - is almost total. The party holds 47 seats, compared with six for the Lib Dems and just two for the Conservatives.
The community is now looking forward to a fresh start after putting its health problems behind it.
The council now places a strong emphasis on regeneration and recreation, with both Widnes and Runcorn town centres undergoing major redevelopment.
With his massive majority, Labour group leader Tony McDermott - who has been leader of the council since 1999 - knows he has no-one else to blame if things go wrong.
He points to the economic developments that are taking place in the borough, as well as improvements in council services.
"I get the feeling that people are not unhappy with what Labour is doing in terms of local issues and our basic services," he said.
"Very few people have raised the war in Iraq, and the evidence is that it isn't having the effect locally that some people thought it would.
"The major issues are those of basic services that people value, such as education, social services, housing and community safety."
Perhaps the key issue voters will be looking at is the battle to secure a second River Mersey crossing to take the pressure off the Runcorn Bridge.
As chairman of the Mersey Crossing Group, Cllr McDermott has been battling to try to secure approval for the £335m project.
He said: "The second Mersey crossing is vital not only to us, but to Merseyside as a whole. It is a regional issue, not just a local difficulty.
"I am confident, given the support we've got, it will go ahead and totally transform this area."
It is hoped the go-ahead for the project could come before the end of the year, but it is likely to be paid for by a mixture of private finance and tolls.
Against such a massive majority, the leaders of the other two groups - who number a grand total of eight members, not even enough to "call in" contentious decisions - concentrate on fighting the election on a strictly ward- by-ward basis.
Councillor Tim Sly, of the Lib Dems, is hoping to increase the party's representation from six to 10.
"If we can get more opposition members, it will lead to a better standard of debate and more transparency in the decision-making process," he said.
Councillor David Findon is one of only two Tories on the council and despite the hopeless odds, Tory candidates are standing in every ward.