Wirral Council has been recognised as the most improved council of the year at the annual Local Government Chronicle Awards.

Announcing the award, the LGC judges said: "This is a council that has broken the mould of old ways of working to deliver a dramatic improvement to its governance.

"It has gone from being an abnormal authority to an organisation that seeks help and inspiration from others, and is working with residents in a way they have never done before with impressive results."

Council leader Cllr Phil Davies said: "I am particularly delighted that the LGC have highlighted our work with residents and partners, because the residents, visitors and businesses we work with are part of our success story.

"This award validates our progress and the difficult path we have at times had to follow.

"As ‘most improved,’ we were up against fierce competition, and this success is testament to the hard work, commitment and tenacity of our Elected Members, staff and partners.

"The Most Improved Council category is one of the most prestigious awards in local government.

"Our work will now continue to maintain the momentum, and become an outstanding council."

Liberal Democrat group leader Cllr Phil Gilchrist said: "I accept progress has been made, with tighter financial control, for instance.

"There are, being fair, councillors who actually talk with each other and are more open to sharing  ideas.

"However, I am far from convinced everything in the garden is lovely. The constitution still places too much power in the same few hands.

"Council meetings are run within a tightly drawn set of rules that limit debating time.

"And there are enormous pressures on staff in their day jobs as services are reorganised."

The LGC said it recognised Wirral as the most improved council of the year, after a difficult choice between it and finalists Doncaster MBC (highly commended) Cherwell and South Northamptonshire DCs and North Ayreshire Council.

LGC editor Nick Golding said: "These awards represent recognition for the most inspiring officers and councillors at authorities the length and breadth of the country.

"The awards are shortlisted and judged by a range of chief executives from national and local government as well as major private sector employers."

The LGC's "abnormal" comment echoes an inquiry by independent consultant Anna Klonowski in 2012.

Her report found the council's corporate governance was so dysfunctional that "the abnormal has become commonplace."

The inquiry was commissioned by the then leader of the council, Cllr Jeff Green.

It came after a series of  investigations in the Globe into whisteblower Martin Morton's exposure of a social services "special charging" scandal in which dozens of vulnerable care home residents were systematically ripped-off over their rent.

They led to a series of damning independent top-level inquiries being ordered - and several senior officers in post at the time are no longer employed by the authority.