SERIOUS question marks have been raised over the Government's devolution deal offering the town 'very little' after Labour voted against proposals last night, Thursday.

Warrington Borough Council's (WBC) Labour group discussed the details in a private meeting but opposed the arrangements put forward for Cheshire, with 24 councillors voting against them, six in favour and two abstaining.

The council is currently 'taking advice' and is 'considering' the matter with the Government, Cheshire West and Chester Council, Cheshire East Council and figures from the Cheshire and Warrington Local Enterprise Partnership.

The opposition comes following a meeting between council leaders, including WBC's Terry O'Neill, and secretary of state for communities and local government Greg Clark in April, which Cllr O'Neill described as 'positive'.

An imminent agreement between ministers and council chiefs is now highly unlikely but Warrington North MP Helen Jones said the Labour group made the 'right decision' for the town.

She added: "The Tories are trying to force us into an alliance with councils with whom we have little community of interest.

"Warrington spent a long time trying to get out of Cheshire to run its own affairs, now there are attempts to force us back in.

"If anyone really believes that this is not a prelude to future local government reorganisation, they are in cloud cuckoo land.

"This deal offered us very little and almost nothing for my constituency. In fact, some parts of it would transfer money from Warrington to elsewhere in Cheshire.

"I am glad that the Labour group wants to explore other options. If the Government was really serious about devolution it would offer it to recognised communities like Warrington instead of trying to force us into a one size fits all formula."

WBC currently retains 27 per cent of its business rates, which is set to amount to £28 million this year, but the town hopes to retain 100 per cent of them in the future.

The Government has been carrying out a consultation on the impact of 100 per cent retention if brought in as part of any deal for Cheshire and Warrington but details are yet to be released.

A joint statement from the leaders of Warrington, Cheshire West and Chester and Cheshire East councils said: "Following political discussions in Warrington a potential consultation with the public and businesses on a proposed devolution deal for Cheshire and Warrington has been put on hold.

"We remain strongly committed to collaborative working on a number of key initiatives and we will continue to explore how best to secure more power and resources for our area."

But Warrington South MP David Mowat has been left frustrated by the latest developments.

He said: "The offer was to give local control over aspects of transport, health, skills development and infrastructure – with budgets moving from Whitehall to Cheshire and Warrington.

"This model is being widely adopted across the country – not least by our next-door neighbours in Manchester and Merseyside.

"I am disappointed that the local Labour group prefers the status quo."

Leader of Cheshire West and Chester Council Samantha Dixon said she remains 'committed' to getting 'the best deal for residents'.

She added: "There is no doubt it is disappointing that we haven’t been able to move forward to a consultation on a possible devolution deal at the moment.

"We believe that the proposed devolution deal would benefit every resident in Cheshire and Warrington.  It would double the size of our economy to £50 billion a year by 2040, secure over 100,000 new jobs, unlock development sites to build much needed new homes, improve transport links and deliver super-fast internet speeds for residents and businesses.  Decisions on education and skills would also be devolved, which would secure a skilled workforce that meets the needs of local businesses and gives all residents the opportunity to achieve their potential. 

"Whilst the benefits of devolution are extremely favourable for our residents, the Government’s insistence on an elected Mayor has made it difficult for all politicians to come to an agreement.  The majority of councillors in Cheshire West and Chester were likely to support a consultation to seek the views of residents.

"If Government is serious about delivering its Northern Powerhouse, now is the time to give up powers to sub-regions and local areas to make their own decisions and I would urge all of our parliamentarians to support this.

"I will continue to work tirelessly on behalf of our residents and communities to secure the best possible deal over the coming months.

"We remain committed to working collaboratively with our neighbours in Cheshire and Warrington on a number of important initiatives to improve the lives of local people.

"We will continue to work closely with neighbours in north Wales to deliver ambitious growth plans and to improve connectivity between our linked economies and geography."