THE former leader of Halton Borough Council has spoken of his 'complete suprise' at being included in the New Year honours list.

Cllr Rob Polhill, who stepped down after 11 years at the helm last May but remains councillor for Halton View in Widnes, has been awarded the MBE for services to the community of Halton.

It comes just a matter of weeks after the former taxi driver who joined the council in 1988 was made an Honorary Freeman of Halton, the borough's highest civic honour. In an exclusive interview with the LDRS, Cllr Pohill spoke of his pride at the latest award.

He said: "The news that I had been nominated came as a complete surprise and I didn’t actually believe it until the local media contacted me to say that I was on the list.

"It was then that I mentioned it to my family who were thrilled. It’s such a proud moment for me and my family."

A former deputy leader of the council, Cllr Polhill took the top job as the then coalition government came to power in 2010, with swingeing cuts to local government finances being a recurring feature of his tenure.

He said: "As a councillor, you deal with many issues but none more than the last decade that has been extremely challenging.

"But we got through it mainly because we were all on the same page, all pulling one way, and my fellow councillors have been extremely supportive.

"In Halton, our officers and staff are our greatest asset and particular over the last 20 months dealing with the pandemic, they went more than that extra mile and did a fabulous job."

Since his award was announced, he said he has had lots of good wishes from around the country and Halton.

He added: "I certainly feel very proud to receive the MBE and would like to thank my family, friends and colleagues for their support. Although unaware who nominated me, it was so humbling that they took the time and trouble to do so."