House of Lords Press Release
Embargo: 10:00hrs, Thursday 21 February 2008


The House of Lords Merits of Statutory Instruments Committee has today published a range of comments from local stakeholders on the Government's proposal to set up two "single-tier" local authorities in Cheshire from April 2009.

At present, local government in Cheshire comprises Cheshire County Council and six district councils: the boroughs of Congleton; Crewe and Nantwich; Macclesfield; Ellesmere Port and Neston; Vale Royal; and the City of Chester.

The Government have laid before Parliament the Cheshire (Structural Changes) Order 2008 which, if approved, would set a date of April 2009 when the existing councils would be wound up and replaced by two single-tier or "unitary" local authorities: Cheshire East Council; and Cheshire West and Chester Council.

The Committee has received comments from a large number of interested parties, including all the councils affected, as well as representatives of schools, parish councils, the fire authority and a primary care trust.

While three of the existing district councils (Macclesfield BC; Ellesmere Port and Neston BC; and Vale Royal BC) commented that the timetable for the proposals was achievable, the other three (the City of Chester; Congleton BC; and Crewe and Nantwich BC) and Cheshire County Council raised doubts about the possibility of completing the re-structuring by April 2009.

These doubts were echoed by representatives of Cheshire's schools, and by county councillors who serve as members of the children's services authority.

Mrs Gwyneth Dunwoody, MP for Crewe and Nantwich, and Mr Martin Bell, formerly MP for Tatton, also wrote to the Committee to voice concern.

The Committee has suggested that the Government should weigh up the case for taking longer, to allay the concerns expressed.

In its report on the Cheshire (Structural Changes) Order 2008, the Merits Committee reviews the process that the Government have followed in deciding on the current proposals for re-structuring local government in Cheshire, and draws on comments made to it by a large number of stakeholders. The Committee has reported the Order on the ground that it gives rise to issues of public policy likely to be of interest.

Notes to Editors

1. The Committee report is published by The Stationery Office as HL Paper 56. It will be available online at:

2. The Cheshire (Structural Changes) Order 2008 is the sixth Order laid before Parliament under the Local Government and Public Involvement in Health Act 2007. In December 2007, the Government laid five Orders which related to local government re-structuring in Cornwall, County Durham, Northumberland, Shropshire and Wiltshire. The Committee reported on these Orders in the 7th Report of 2007-08: see:

3. The House of Lords Merits of Statutory Instruments Committee was established in 2003 and began work in April 2004. Its task is to examine each statutory instrument presented to the House and to draw attention to any which deal with matters of significant public policy interest or show defects in certain areas. The Committee's Reports are intended to inform the scrutiny process of the House of Lords, without seeking to determine what view the House will finally take of individual instruments.

4. The current members of the Merits Committee are :

Lord Filkin (Chairman)
Baroness Butler-Sloss
Lord Crisp
Baroness Deech
Viscount Eccles
Lord James of Blackheath
Baroness Kingsmill
Lord Lucas
Baroness Maddock
Baroness Thomas of Winchester
Lord Tunnicliffe

For copies of the report please contact Ashleigh Witcher, Press Officer, on 020 7219 6640.