Halton is a local government district in the ceremonial county of Cheshire in North West England, with borough status and administered by a unitary authority. It was created in 1974 as a district of the non-metropolitan county of Cheshire, and became a unitary authority area on 1 April 1998. Since 2014 it has been a member of the Liverpool City Region Combined Authority. The borough consists of the towns of Runcorn and Widnes and the civil parishes of Hale, Daresbury, Moore, Preston Brook, Halebank and Sandymoor. The district borders Merseyside, Warrington and Cheshire West and Chester. The borough straddles the River Mersey – the area to the north (including Widnes) is historically part of Lancashire, that to the south (including Runcorn) part of Cheshire.
Although Halton town dates back to the 12th century (and beyond) when land on both sides of the river belonged to the Barony of Halton, the origin of the District Council was the outcome of the local government commission's suggested reforms of England, in 1969, the Redcliffe-Maud Report. This proposed to create metropolitan counties constituted of metropolitan district councils in the most urbanised parts of England. The model was that of the London Boroughs and Greater London Council formed in 1965. Southern Lancashire and northern Cheshire were among these urban areas, and two new metropolitan Counties were to be formed around Liverpool (as Merseyside) and Manchester (as Greater Manchester). However, the towns of Widnes and Runcorn (and the County Borough of Warrington) which lay between these were reluctant to join either. The Commission agreed that Halton and Warrington would become districts within Cheshire, as they would be detached from Lancashire by the two new metropolitan counties controlling the territory to the north.
The district was formally established on 1 April 1974 from Runcorn urban district and part of Runcorn Rural District from Cheshire, and the borough of Widnes and the parish of Hale from the Whiston Rural District in Lancashire. On 1 April 1998 Halton became an independent unitary authority, though it is still served by Cheshire Police and Cheshire Fire and Rescue Service, and forms part of Cheshire for ceremonial purposes, such as the Lord Lieutenancy.
On 1 April 2014 Halton became part of the Liverpool City Region Combined Authority, joining the local authorities of Liverpool, Sefton, Wirral, Knowsley and St Helens, the five metropolitan district councils which constitute the county of Merseyside. This effectively reverses the position adopted in the 1970s which created it as an anomaly. As a unitary authority its status is similar to the metropolitan district councils.
The population of Halton in 2004 was 118,915 and it is the most densely populated district in Cheshire at 15.01 persons per hectare (3,890.2/sq mi). The change in population during the 20th century is shown in the following table.
|Source: <2011:, 2011:|
In 2003 Halton had the largest proportion of the population in Cheshire in the age groups under 5, 5 to 15 and 16 to pension age and, at 16.1% the lowest proportion of people at pension age or older. At 1.2% the proportion of non-white ethnic groups in 2001 equalled the lowest in all local authorities in Cheshire. At 11.5 per 1,000 population, the live birth rate in Halton and Warrington, is the highest in the county. At 121 the standardised mortality ratio and at 21.5% the percentage of persons with limiting long-term illness are considerably the highest in Cheshire.
There has been an increase in the number of households from 47,214 in 1991 to 52,501 in 2006. The average household size has reduced from 2.70 in 1991 to 2.44 in 2001. 89.8% of houses had central heating in 2001 compared with 75.8% in 2001. The type of housing has also changed with an increase from 15.5% to 19.2% in detached houses from 1991 to 2001, an increase over the same years in semi-detached houses from 30.0% to 33.0% and a corresponding decrease in terraced houses from 44.0% to 37.5%. The percentage of dwellings in council tax bands A-B is, at 69% the highest in any Cheshire local authority while the percentages in bands E-F (8%) and G-H (1%) are the lowest.
There has been a shift in employment from manufacturing to service industries. In 1991 34% worked in the manufacturing sector and 61% were in the service sector. By 2004 17% were in manufacturing jobs and 78% were in service jobs.
The Borough of Halton is one of the six constituent local government districts of the Liverpool City Region. Since 1 April 2014, some of the borough's responsibilities have been pooled with neighbouring authorities within the metropolitan area and subsumed into the Liverpool City Region Combined Authority.
The combined authority has effectively become the top-tier administrative body for the local governance of the city region and the leader of Halton Borough Council, along with the five other leaders from neighbouring local government districts, take strategic decisions over economic development, transport, employment and skills, tourism, culture, housing and physical infrastructure.
As of July 2015, negotiations are currently taking place between the UK national government and the combined authority over a possible devolution deal to confer greater powers on the region. Discussions include whether to introduce an elected ‘Metro Mayor' to oversee the entire metropolitan area.
Since Halton became a unitary authority in 1998 the Labour party has controlled the council. Elections to the council are held in 3 out of every 4 years, with one third of the 56 seats being elected at each election. The present composition of the council is: