A COUNCIL tax rise of 1.9 per cent has been approved for Runcorn and Widnes residents.

The increase was approved as part of this year's budget at a full council meeting at Runcorn Town Hall.

Deputy council leader and board member for resources Clr Mike Wharton spoke about the severity of this year's £15 million in budget cuts.

Clr Wharton said: “Halton is the 27th most deprived out of 326 councils in England.

“Next year’s grant funding has been cut by £7m. This is a cut of £58 for every man, woman and child.

“Although the savings we are proposing will remove around 22 staff posts, we will do everything we can to avoid compulsory redundancies.

“I must pay tribute to the staff. At a time of great uncertainty and threats to their jobs, they have continued to deliver the goods. They have been excellent.”

He said managers have been reduced by 33 per cent over the past four years and most other staff cuts have been achieved through voluntary means.

He added: “In 1997, Halton district council had a net budget of around £15m. It is shocking to realise that this is the same amount which the Government is forcing us to cut from our budget virtually every year.”