Changing shopping habits and the UK economy are to blame for the problems facing Bolton town centre, a snap poll has suggested.

Following a debate sparked by David Crausby, MP for Bolton North East, The Bolton News asked online readers what factors they thought were hurting the town.

Mr Crausby had said it was due to the state of the economy and blamed the Coalition government’s policies, the rise of internet shopping and the prospect of a triple-dip recession.

Just under half of those who responded to the ballot at agreed, believing the UK economy and changing shopping habits were the main reasons with 23 per cent and 26 per cent – 49 per cent overall - citing each of those factors.

A further 15 per cent blamed a lack of leisure, 18 per cent a lack of industry and 17 per cent said a stifling of debate on the issue meant it was not being addressed properly.

The story also encouraged much feedback from readers on both the website and The Bolton News’ Facebook page, with the majority agreeing that Bolton town centre was in need of attention.

Reader Peter Lanky said: “The council should also stop trying to blame other issues for the decline, and also trying to claim that there is not a problem.”

On Facebook, Chris Amos wrote: “Everyone is talking about the UK economy and the austerity measure that are impacting the town and others alike it. How can that be when places like neighbouring Bury, Chorley, Wigan, Manchester, and parts are Salford are actually thriving?”

Bolton Council leader Cllr Cliff Morris defended the town, but said spending power was down due to wage freezes and “high VAT”.

Conservative councillor Musadir Dean accused Labour yesterday of dismissing Tory ideas aimed at improving the town and said the ruling party was sending out “mixed messages”.