CONSERVATIVE plans to target "rugby league towns" in the north at December's General Election are "patronising", according to the leader of Halton Council.

Cllr Rob Polhill, whose borough includes the home ground of Championship side Widnes Vikings, said he thought residents would be "proud to be from a rugby league town" after right-leaning think tank Onward suggested areas like Widnes could be fertile ground for the Conservatives on December 12.

He told the Local Democracy Reporting Service: "Looking at what they have said, it's a very patronising view of northern people and suggests voters can be taken for granted.

"I'm not sure it would be of any benefit for the Conservatives to target Widnes because it's a rugby league town."

Of all the "rugby league towns" that the Conservatives could target at the General Election, Widnes is probably the hardest for the party to crack.

The town's MP, Derek Twigg, secured almost three-quarters of the vote last time out, the highest Labour vote of any seat with a professional rugby league team.

His Conservative challenger, Matthew Lloyd, found himself 25,000 votes adrift in second place.

Even so, the Halton constituency, which covers Runcorn as well as Widnes, in some ways fits the stereotype that Onward described as "Workington man".

Its population is white, ageing and voted for Brexit with 57% of Halton backing Leave in 2016. It also has a long history of voting Labour, but Conservative peer James O'Shaughnessy has suggested voters like these could be prised away from the party with the promise of security from "the harsh winds of globalisation".

With Parliament formally dissolved on Tuesday night, the Local Democracy Reporting Service went to see if the "Widnes lad", like "Workington man", was open to voting Conservative.

For Richard Matthews, the plan seemed to be working.

Standing in the centre of Widnes, he said: "I've always been a staunch Labour man, all my life, but I don't agree with Jeremy Corbyn."

Now, after a life of voting Labour, it is Brexit that has him backing the Tories.

He said: "I don't like the buggers, but they should be supported.

"I hope they win.

"I think they could do well here, because the general sense is, you know, we're fed up with it but Labour supporters are saying we voted to come out and that’s it, the Labour Party's wrong on that."

Outside the Widnes Vikings' ground, however, resident Cecilia Murphy said she still plans to vote Labour.

She voted Remain in 2016 and still thinks Britain should stay in the EU, saying: "We're only a small country, we're better being part of a group.

"When you think of the war, we were all together then."

But she isn't only motivated by Brexit – public services are also a concern.

She said: "The health service is another thing that I worry about. It's bad when you do go to the hospitals and all the waiting around that you do."

Meanwhile, some Leave voters may have drifted away from Labour, but this does not necessarily mean more votes for the Conservatives.

Some are opting not to vote at all.

One, who declined to give his name, said: "I don't think I'll vote.

"Certainly I will not vote for Corbyn or Boris, because they all think it's just one big joke.

"It's the first time I've ever done that. I've always voted, mostly for Labour."