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Most Deprived Areas Of Bolton To Get Lions Share Of New Council Investment As Controversial Plan Is Approved

Friday, January 25th, 2019 8:15am

By Joseph Timan - Local Democracy Reporter

The most deprived parts of the borough will get more money for park benches, street signs and play areas as a controversial Labour plan has been approved after months of delays.

Eight wards will receive 70 per cent of the public realm money with Halliwell, Farnworth, Crompton and Breightmet taking nearly half of the £1.1m.

The way the money is divided has been the subject of controversy since an extra £2.6m for potholes, pavements and playgrounds was announced in November.

Labour wanted to allocate some of the money according to a formula which favours deprived areas, although highways funding would be split equally.

This left Labour wards with more money than those represented by Conservatives, leaving Bromley Cross with no money at all.

Since then, the ruling group admitted to using outdated deprivation statistics and agreed not to apply the controversial formula to a third of the money.

Despite this compromise, the Conservatives refused to endorse the proposal, calling for all the money to be shared equally at a council meeting on Wednesday night.

Bradshaw councillor Stuart Haslam said his party support targeting funding for certain programmes such as health and housing but not for street furniture and play equipment.

He said: “These are universal needs and as such should be allocated in equal shares across the borough.”

Cllr Zoe Kirk Robinson added: “Our towns deserve a fair and proper allocation of funding. A road sign is a road sign no matter where in our town it is. Our children deserve safe play areas, no matter where they grow up.”

Opposition leader David Greenhalgh took issue with accusations that his party does not support the idea of targeted funding stressing that the Tories believe in narrowing the gap in Bolton.

He said: “There’s been a lot of false statements made about where we on this side are. We absolutely support the idea of targeted funding when we feel it’s appropriate.”

Liberal Democrat leader Roger Hayes also agreed with targeting funding to areas with the greatest need but not in this case.

He said: “There’s just as much need for public realm and highways improvements in these areas than any other wards.

But Harper Green councillor Susan Haworth told councillors that deprived areas have a greater need to repair play equipment because of anti-social behaviour and to build benches because of higher rates of disability.

She told them: “We have to apply everyday living to these arguments. Good neighbourhoods in deprived areas of hardship. It’s a key component of social mobility. We get terrible run-down environments not being maintained. It has a huge impact.”

Cllr Debbie Newall, who recently resigned from the Labour Party, also weighed in on the debate.

She said that although she now sits opposite the ruling group in the council chambers, her principles have not changed.

The former cabinet member for health and social care said: “When you have more money it gives you more hope. When you have more money you have more choices.”

Cabinet member Nick Peel reminded councillors that there would be a policy development group set up to discuss issues with the funding formula but dismissed some Conservative arguments as “nonsense”.

He said: “All this fuss from the party opposite is about £1.1m. Where was the Tory outrage, where was the Tory anger when this council lost £155m? There was nothing but a deafening silence.”

Labour’s plan was approved with all of their councillors voting in favour and all but one Conservative voting against it.

Breightmet councillor Adele Warren broke ranks with her party because her ward would receive a large chunk of the money.

Farnworth and Kearsley First were also split with Cllr Julie Pattison voting against the proposal given that her ward does not benefit as much as Farnworth which will receive a quarter of a million pounds.

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