SIX crunch seats at next week’s local elections will decide the new make-up of Bolton Council.

With 22 positions on the council up for grabs, insiders believe the ruling Labour Group looks likely to hold on to the eight seats it is defending, and could steal others away from the Tories and Lib Dems.

The Conservatives are defending 11 seats, while the Liberal Democrats are defending three.

Breightmet, Darcy Lever and Little Lever, Horwich and Blackrod, Westhoughton North and Chew Moor, Kearsley, and Westhoughton South, all went to Labour in 2011 and the party is understood to be targeting these seats again this year.

Bolton’s Conservatives are defending seats in Westhoughton North and Chew Moor, Horwich and Blackrod, Darcy Lever and Little Lever, and Breightmet, while the Lib Dems are defending Kearsley and Westhoughton South.

Lib Dem councillor David Wilkinson, who is defending Westhoughton South, said: “I have a national message and a local message.

“Westhoughton, like the other townships of Horwich and Blackrod, doesn’t get a fair deal from Bolton.

“Westhoughton got £94,000 from Labour, while millions have been spent in Bolton town centre.”

Cllr Wilkinson said he is hoping to capitalise on the “personality factor”, and defy the national statistics which make Labour favourites in his ward.

He added: “I’ve been a councillor since 1984 in Bolton and Westhoughton, and I’ve won some elections, and I’ve lost some.

“If you lose, you have to take it on the chin. That’s democracy.”

An improbable six-seat swing towards Labour would give the group 41 of the 60 council seats.

Labour’s Cllr Nick Peel, who is not standing this time round, but has been campaigning hard across Bolton, said: “There is a big fight going on.

“We don’t have a big leafleting campaign. We are just quietly talking to people.

“Nick Clegg has the power to bring down the government, but the only way he’ll do that is if the Lib Dems get a kicking in the local elections.”