HALTON Council has been commended as the 27th best local authority in the UK for preventing and tackling homophobic bullying, celebrating difference and supporting lesbian, gay and bisexual young people in the community.

The national equality charity, Stonewall, awarded the rating in their education equality index 2014.

Halton's annual anti-bullying conference, at which Stonewall role model James Wharton spoke at in 2013, is just one of the reasons that helped the borough achieve its position.

Fay Beverton from Stonewall praised Halton, saying: "Thank you so much for all the time and effort you put into making your submission and many congratuations on your result.

"I think it really reflected the hard work being done to celebrate difference and prevent and tackle homophobic bullying in your schools."

Halton was acclaimed for its many projects including anti-bullying work through the youth parliament and the guidance offered to schools to record and monitor incidents of bullying.

Clr Ged Philbin, board member for children, young people and families, said: "This is great news and shows we are really making strides in stamping out bullying.

"Although Halton is pleased to receive this recognition, the intention is to be ranked even higher on next year's index."

Plans for the next year include an anti-bullying conference in November, the launch of an anti-bullying website, training for secondary school staff in the autumn and school governors in 2015.

Young people will be surveyed on their experiences of homophobic bullying and the use of homophobic language.

A project for gay and lesbian people in Halton will be promoted on social media platforms.

The bullying reporting system will be promoted more extensively and Halton's anti-bullying policy for all services will be reinforced.