MORE than a quarter of children are living in poverty in Halton, a bleak report on major socio-economic challenges reveals.

Data contained in an electoral review of the borough reveals health, crime and financial deprivation levels have a significant impact on the workload of councillors.

The report states that Halton is the 27th most deprived local authority in England, with a third of its population living in areas that fall within the 10 per cent most deprived places in the country. 

Thirteen small areas also fall in the top 10 per cent most deprived places nationally for crime.

Runcorn and Widnes police units are more affected than other parts of  Cheshire for serious crime, child safeguarding and domestic related crime.

Figures reveal that 25.3 per cent of children were living in poverty and that health inequality, unemployment rates  and residents in social housing were significantly higher in Halton than national and regional averages.

The report, which was produced to review a change in the size of Halton Council, said: “The effects of high levels of deprivation are a significant factor in the council’s priorities, actions and governance structures and has a major effect on the workload of elected members.”

Other shocking statistics include female life expectancy in Halton is the 11th lowest in the country and

life expectancy is 12.7 years lower for men and 9.3 years lower for women in the most deprived areas of Halton compared to the least deprived areas.  

A quarter of households in Halton are socially rented compared to 18.3 per cent regionally and 17.7 per cent nationally.

Halton has the highest rate of universal credit claimants in the Liverpool City Region and has a higher rate than the north west and England.

The high proportion of people aged 65 and over in the borough is putting an increasing strain on hospital admissions and social care.

A government grant to Halton for 2018 has been reduced by a further £5 million – equivalent to a cut of £40 for every person living in Halton.

The report added that Halton had suffered one the the highest reductions in its spending power compared to other local authorities, accentuating these problems.

A government analysis on spending power shows that over the period 2010/11 to 2019/20,  Halton will lose £40.9 million or 29.2 per cent in cash terms, compared to a national average loss of only 18.4 per cent. 

This equates to a cut in funding of £326 per head of population for Halton compared to the English average reduction of £210 per head .

It follows a budget speech on spending power delivered  in March, where deputy leader of the council Cllr Mike Wharton pointed out that Windsor and Maidenhead, containing the Prime Minister’s constituency, has seen a reduction in spending power of only 10 per cent or £67 per head.

By way of comparison, Surrey,  containing Chancellor Philip Hammond’s constituency, has seen a reduction of only 6 per centor £45 per head.

The electoral review concluded that whilst achieving cost savings were vital to the council, reducing the number of councillors significantly would be counter-productive because of the major challenges the borough faces.

The report states: “The reduction in the council’s financial resources does not mean that the council should draw back from its role in ensuring that high quality services continue to be delivered and that democratic oversight is maintained.” 

The electoral review report recommends reducing the size of Halton council from 56 seats to 54.

Council leader Cllr Rob Polhill said: “The council’s priorities are very much focussed on these important issues.

"Our Health Improvement Team is working closely with local people to improve health and well-being.

"Our Regeneration Team is working with businesses to help sustain existing businesses and attract new employment into the borough, and our employment, learning and skills priority is about helping people into work.

“In addition our welfare rights and money advice service is helping people to obtain what they are entitled to, and provides support and advice on how to budget and plan their finances.”