THE former leader of Halton spoke of his pride after councillors unanimously voted to award him the borough’s highest civic honour.

Cllr Rob Polhill has been named an Honorary Freeman of the Borough of Halton for his work in local government, which has included five years as deputy leader and 11 years in the top post.

A former taxi driver by trade, he has served as councillor since 1988, taking over the role of leader in 2010 before stepping down in May this year.

The 73-year-old former Farnworth and Fairfield pupil was put forward for the title by fellow Halton View ward councillor Cllr Tom McInerney and former council leader Cllr Tony McDermott, who held the reins up until 2010.

Addressing a special council meeting last night (Wednesday), Cllr McInerney said: “He was probably the most unfortunate of Halton Council leaders.

"In 2010 the Conservatives became our government and following 11 years as leader, Rob has had to deal with cuts to our budget yearly, and added to this the pandemic to contend with.

“But despite this, during Rob’s leadership we maintained our outstanding schools, parks, libraries children’s centres and brought in new businesses to the borough. Rob’s mantra has always been look after the elderly and the vulnerable, and even with all the challenges somehow we continue to achieve this.”

The Freeman title is ceremonial and dates back to the Middle Ages. In the last 20 years, others to receive the honour in Halton were Widnes Rugby legend Frank Myler, former Halton Chief Executives Ron Turton and Mike Cuff, Cllr Arthur Cole (posthumous), Cllrs Tony McDermott and Dave Cargill.

Speaking after the meeting, Cllr Polhill said: “I was surprised and honoured. It’s a privilege to be a councillor, to have been elected all those years ago was a really proud moment for me. It’s my town and my borough and we get into this for the right reasons.”

He said two of his proudest achievements were securing the local user discount scheme for local residents to cross the Mersey Gateway, and bringing five care homes back under council control.

He added: “It’s sad in many cases for me because my parents have passed away and they’d have been so proud. My brother and sister have passed away too, my eldest brother lives in New Zealand and he won’t know about it, but I’ll drop him a message.”