THE Fly in the Ointment article ‘Are we hurting Chester’s feelings?’ made a great impression on me and impelled me to tell you the inside story of the ‘Battle for Cheshire’ which led to the disastrous split of our great county.

At the time I was a member of the Conservative Cabinet and very involved.

At the time Cheshire had achieved excellent status and was an outstanding authority with outstanding services, especially education and Social Services. We also with other local councillors supported the best fire service in the country and the new police HQ had been built in Winsford.

This was due to councillors and particularly bright officers working together as a team for the benefit of Cheshire residents.

When Labour Minister, Hazel Blears decided the best way forward for local authorities were unitary councils, the county council voted 100 per cent cross-party for a single Cheshire Unitary.

This was the least expensive and most efficient and effective option for Cheshire. At the same time officers and councillors agreed to invest millions to secure a good financial future for Council Tax payers and secure our services to Cheshire residents.

Unfortunately, shortly afterwards our Conservative HQ in Westminster then decided to interfere in local politics, thinking they knew better, by making it a policy to support an option, put forward by Hazel Blears, of an ‘improved two tier’ for Cheshire which the Conservatives must support.

This should have created numerous difficulties as the six boroughs in Cheshire varied widely in politics and efficiency and would have been difficult to deliver. This caused great divisions across Cheshire as expected and caused wounds which have never healed in the party.

It turned out to be a red herring as Hazel Blears and Christine Russell, the Labour MP for Chester, decided that Chester must take a significant part in the new arrangements for Cheshire.

Christine signed off the new arrangements agreed with Hazel Blears which were to split Cheshire in half. Chester of course would be in the title and after some discussion it became Cheshire West and Chester – known as Quack. A nickname adopted which caused them some displeasure.

The new council then squandered £20 million of taxpayers’ money on a new building. The old County Council building opened by the Queen some 50 years before, facing the river and with a splendid council chamber and with more useful facilities behind, it was sold to the University of Chester.

Before the end of Cheshire, I secured the funding for a children’s centre for part of my division, in Weaverham. When the new council took over they reneged on this and Weaverham never got the centre which would have been an excellent facility for the schools and parents in the area.

As one of the 10 ‘rebels’ who could not support the Conservative proposal, I was finally told when the election for the new council took place that I could keep my seat if I apologised for not supporting the Conservative policy.

My supporters said I had nothing to apologise for as I put Cheshire residents before the Conservatives.

The Cheshire residents were never given a chance to vote on this matter which was so important to them.

The 10 rebels incidentally were members of the cabinet and former chairmen of the council with great experience and good political records. They had never before voted against a Conservative policy.

I believe in such an important matter a free vote should have been allowed but no matter. I made the decision with the others.

I therefore stood as an Independent in the election knowing I had no party or campaign support or finance behind me. I still managed with my two supporters to achieve more votes than the Labour, Liberal and other Independent candidates.

I just stood on principle but would have had no heart to be part of this new unitary which had split Cheshire.

This broke many councillors and officer’s hearts to see a once great county so diminished. After being good, strong opposition to the Liverpool and Manchester regions they are now poor, inefficient and broke councils and our residents are poorly served.

This is as I say the ‘inside story’ and your article was very accurate.

Well done.

I enjoy reading your article every week and I always seem to support your sensible views.

Nora Dolphin Northwich