Council chiefs have given their backing to the man who looks certain to become Halton’s new leader.

The authority’s ruling executive board met earlier today and rubber-stamped Halton Labour group’s choice of Mike Wharton for the top post.

It was the first in-person meeting since lockdown restrictions were eased, and lasted less than two minutes.

The decision still needs to win the backing of the full council on Friday, but with the authority having a huge Labour majority, that is expected to be little more than a formality.

The board also gave their backing to Dave Thompson, who represents the Halton Lea ward in Runcorn, for the post of deputy leader.

Cllr Wharton was previously deputy leader under Rob Polhill, who recently announced his decision to step down after 11 years in charge, although he will continue to serve as a councillor.

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Cllr Wharton was first elected to the Council in 2002, representing Hale Village, and earlier this month won re-election to the newly created council ward of Ditton, Hale Village and Halebank.

He has held the resources portfolio for the past 15 years, with responsibility for the council’s budget. Outside the council, he has spent much of his working life in finance in the retail sector.

Speaking to the LDRS after chairing his final executive board meeting as leader, Cllr Polhill said he was proud to see his deputy take the reins.

He said: “Mike has been my deputy for quite some time and through some tough years. I’m pleased he’s been chosen and he’ll be a good choice for the people of this borough.”

Cllr Wharton said: “I must be the luckiest person there is because I’m absolutely delighted to have been chosen.

"We’ve got a fantastic future, lots of challenges, but there’s so much to look forward to.

“Coming out of lockdown is a big challenge for the council, but I’m lucky that I’ve worked with Rob for 11 years and have had someone who’s brought me on, I’ve learned a lot from Rob, and I just want to continue in that vein.”