Liberal Democrats’ budget plan: £4m to fix broken roads and cut councillors by third

Westhoughton’s broken roads could be repaired quickly if Bolton Council accepts Liberal Democrat proposals to invest £4 million.

Residents are furious that the Labour-run council has long-neglected Westhoughton’s crumbling roads.

An alternative plan will be put forward by the Liberal Democrats at a meeting on Wednesday night.

The idea would be partly funded by axing a third of borough councillors.

Westhoughton campaigners Bernadette Eckersley-Fallon and Rebekah Fairhurst said: “Here are some sensible, fully costed proposals that will finally start to address some of the problems affecting communities like Westhoughton. The question is, will Labour listen?”

The fully costed proposals include:

  • Provide an extra £4 million for residential road repairs.
  • Reduce councillor special responsibility allowances by £62,000 and scrap the Bolton Scene magazine to save £53,000. Use the savings to reverse cuts to corporate parenting/virtual school and children leaving care.
  • Reverse cuts to the school meals subsidy.
  • £83,000 to fund dog fouling enforcement and education.
  • Scrap the £1 million capital investment in Bolton One sauna facilities and use the money to provide a £500,000 investment to tackle homelessness and £450,000 investment in a competition to encourage high-value, high-tech industry in the town.
  • Invest £2 million in the successful empty homes scheme, bringing more of the nearly 5,000 empty homes across the town back into use.
  • Approach the electoral commission with a view to cutting the number of councillors from three per ward to two in order to achieve savings of over £300,000.
  • Recover the £300,000 grant paid out to Asons solicitors and use the money, to delay for one year any cuts to Positive Activities free play service and youth service provision – protecting between 30-52 council positions.

Revealed: Labour-run Bolton Council sold land to Asons for just £1

Labour-run Bolton Council sold land in Bolton town centre to Asons solicitors for just £1, it has emerged.

The special deal was set-up for the firm but plans to build a new office fell through.

The land was then sold back to the council and it was put back on sale at the full market rate.

Westhoughton town councillor David Wilkinson said: “Why was this solicitors firm given a special deal? It raises yet more suspicion over what Labour has been up to when it comes to using taxpayers’ money.”

The council went on to give the company a secret £300,000 grant, which has sparked fury across Bolton.

Asons

Revealed: Map shows Asons was NOT eligible for £300,000 council grant

A map has revealed that Asons solicitors was not eligible for a town centre grant despite Bolton Council giving £300,000 to the rich firm.

The firm’s offices in Churchgate fall outside of the area eligible for funding from the Town Centre Investment Scheme.

It raises fresh questions as to why Westhoughton’s three Labour councillors backed the controversial grant which was awarded in secret.

Councillors Anna-Marie Watters, Kevan Jones and David Chadwick all supported their leader Cliff Morris’s decision to give taxpayers’ money away.

Westhoughton Labour councillors

Westhoughton Liberal Democrat councillor David Wilkinson said: “This makes you wonder even more why this grant was given.”

The company is owned by a man who has openly bragged about driving around in his sixth Lamborghini.

Akram brags about his Lamborghini purchase

Akram brags about his Lamborghini purchase

Watch Cliff Morris face questioning over Labour’s £300,000 giveaway to Asons solicitors

If you missed our live stream of the scrutiny meeting in which Cliff Morris and his Labour colleagues were questioned over their decision to award Asons solicitors a £300,000 grant, this is your chance to watch it again.

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Akram brags about his Lamborghini purchase

10 questions Labour must answer about Cliff Morris’s £300,000 Asons grants

Cliff Morris might still be clinging on as Bolton Council leader despite secretly giving £300,000 of public money to rich law firm Asons, but there are still 10 serious questions that he and his Labour councillors must answer.

The disgraced council leader dragged his three Westhoughton Labour councillors – Cllr Chadwick, Jones and Watters – into the row when they publicly backed his decision to give away the money to a firm owned by a man who bragged about driving his sixth Lamborghini.

The 10 questions critics want answering are:

• Why was the grant signed off and agreed in September when the works had been completed in August, if the purpose of the grant was, as we were told, to keep Asons in the town centre?

• What due diligence was done before the grant was awarded, assessing criteria, looking into the financial competence and sustainability of the company; assessing the business plan for economic growth and job creation; and who from the Council undertook this work?

• If due diligence was done, was the fact that Asons in their published accounts lost over £1 million; are in dispute with the inland revenue for £300,000 and claim in the notes to the accounts that their business model was under threat, taken into account?

• Why did Asons receive this grant when previous attempts to help Asons have ended in failure?

• When was the promise of money made to Asons, and when did the money actually change hands; and which specific Asons company account was the grant paid into?

• What checks have been done by Asons that the money has been spent on the refurbishment costs. Did Asons have to produce invoices and have we seen these invoices and did we put a charge on the building in the event of Asons going into administration?

• What personal connections are there between Asons directors and Executive members or councillors? Were any personal connections declared by Labour councillors? Did the ruling Group declare any interest between Asons and the Labour Party?

• Does the council think it is appropriate when money is tight to be handing over £300,000 to company whose director is claiming to have bought six Lamborghini’s in four years?

• Why was the whole grant passed under emergency powers when it clearly was not an emergency? Whose decision was it ultimately to use emergency powers, and why when the original letter was dated September, did the item not come to the October meeting of the Leader’s portfolio, as it should have done, but came six weeks later to the November meeting?

• A further question has arisen since council: Why did Cllr Morris tell the Corporate Scrutiny committee those discussions with Asons started in September and then tell Manchester Radio on December 1 that discussions started in January.

Bolton Council leader Cliff Morris recently gave an interview with The Bolton News in which he attempts to answer some of these questions…

Cliff Morris and Logistics North

Revealed: Cliff Morris gives £2.2m to Peel, which wants to build 3,000 houses in Westhoughton

Bolton Council has handed a £2.2million pot of money to a firm owned by the rich mega corporation Peel, which wants to build 3,000 houses in Westhoughton.

The money was given to Harworth Estates, which is wholly owned by the housebuilding giant, to help “incentivise” firms to come to their new business park Logistics North, in Over Hulton.

The grant from Bolton Council comes after the controversy surrounding council leader Cliff Morris’s secret decision to give £300,000 to rich law firm Asons.

The £2.2million given to Hartworth Estates is almost the same amount as Peel got out of paying in to Bolton Council for community improvements when it won permission to build new houses at Roscoes Farm, off Bolton Road.

The giveaway was approved by Councillor Morris at a secret meeting. Minutes from the meeting suggest that the council will make the £2.2 million fund available to Harworth and its tenants, to assist with the ‘continued development/occupation of the Logistics North site.’

Westhoughton Liberal Democrat councillor David Wilkinson said: “Suddenly Cliff Morris and his Labour councillors have found millions to splash out on a rich mega corporation owned by a billionaire who lives on the Isle of Man. Sadly it is what we have come to expect after he gave away money to a law firm owned by a man who brags about driving his sixth Lamborghini.

“Yet at the same time public services across Westhoughton are facing huge cuts, from introducing slim bins to closing children’s centres and from axing lollipop ladies to scrapping start-up grants for small businesses, this council has well and truly failed us.”

£100,000 to launch Bolton Council TV

Voters will be able to watch Bolton councillors debate in the council chamber after it was agreed that cameras would be installed at a cost of £100,000.

Labour’s council leader rubbed-stamped the decision at his August meeting.

The cameras will record council meetings to improve “transparency” in council proceedings.

It will also cost £8,000 to keep them switched on for the six council meetings per year.

The meetings will be streamed on the Bolton Council website.

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Westhoughton Labour plunged into crisis as Bolton Council leader faces calls to resign

Labour have been plunged into crisis after Bolton Council leader Cliff Morris was urged to resign.

It follows what has been described as a “serious error of judgement” regarding a decision not to reveal the name of Cllr Ismail Ibrahim as the Labour member who twice failed to pay council tax on time.

Councillors will call upon the Labour leader to resign at a meeting on Wednesday, The Bolton News reports.

One will ask: “Following his serious error of judgement in choosing to use tax payer’s money in the courts to keep the name of his Labour member a secret in the face of the Freedom of Information Request from the Bolton News will the Leader of the Council now do the honourable thing and resign?”

Another councillor will claim that Labour is no longer fit to run the council.

The councillor’s motion will state: “In view of the failure of so many of Labour’s policies in Bolton in recent years there are serious doubts amongst the public that Labour councillors can deliver for Bolton the wide opportunities and full benefits afforded by the Government’s devolved powers under the City Deal.”

Cllr Morris says he will not resign.

Labour cover-up: Did Westhoughton taxpayers fund Bolton Council chief’s pay-off?

Labour councillors have refused to reveal whether Westhoughton taxpayers’ money was used to pay-off Paul Najsarek after he quit his £160,000 job as Bolton Council’s chief executive.

They have been accused of a cover-up after ignoring requests to come clean by Liberal Democrat councillors and The Bolton News.

It is thought that taxpayers may have footed a huge pay-off bill for Mr Najsarek who left his job after just five months.

Westhoughton councillor David Wilkinson has demanded to know the truth. He said: “The council is not being honest about whether a taxpayer-funded pay-off was given out. People have a right to know how their money is being spent.”

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The Bolton News submitted a Freedom of Information request for the information but it was rejected by council bosses.

The newspaper has now demanded that the council carries out an internal review. It said: “If The Bolton News is not content with the outcome of any internal review, we have the right to apply directly to the Information Commissioner for a decision.”

It comes as it was also revealed that Labour councillors secretly agreed to sell Westhoughton’s Bolton Road car park to supermarket Aldi weeks before the company has even submitted its plans for a new store.