THE Green Party in Bolton has warned the council not to accept a government “bribe” that could see the local authority receive a tax break if energy companies drill for shale gas.

The Bolton News reported how Prime Minister David Cameron announced that councils which allow fracking — a controversial process of drilling into the ground to recover gas and oil — will be able to keep 100 per cent of the business rates it collects from the site.

The deal could be worth up to £1.7 million a year for a typical site, and is double the current 50 per cent arrangement.

But Alan Johnson, Bolton Green Party officer, claimed there were serious health concerns for residents, and that patches of Blackrod could be ripe for exploration by fracking companies.

Green Party members have been among Barton Moss protesters who are campaigning against exploratory fracking at the Salford site.

Mr Johnson said: “Companies do not go to all the expense of exploratory drilling if they don’t think something is there.

“Every area in the North West is open to the possibility of fracking.

“It’s a rush for gas and, of course, these companies can make a lot of money out of it.

“It’s possible that parts of Blackrod could be considered, and there’s concerns about the Bury area too.”

He claimed the drilling had been banned in France because of the potential dangers of the process poisoning the water and toxic chemicals being released Mr Johnson said: “This government offer is a bribe, and fracking is wrong.

“The supposed job creation coming from fracking isn’t anything like the government says it will be and it won’t bring gas prices down — they’re tied into the European gas market.

“If we invested in renewable energy and insulating every home for energy saving, that would be a far better way of reducing energy prices.”

Cllr Cliff Morris, Bolton Council leader, said each application that came to the authority regarding potential shale oil gas would be judged on its own merits.

He added that there were no sites identified in Bolton at the moment.