SHADOW local government minister Hilary Benn has backed Bolton Council’s plans to invest £14 million to stimulate the borough’s growth.

Mr Benn spoke to journalists at the Labour Party conference in Manchester, where he said local authorities could find ways of tackling the fallout of government spending cuts.

Bolton councillors have put forward plans to slash spending on services by £35.6 million over the next two years, but has also unveiled a £14 million “war chest” of cash to spend on things such as road and housing schemes, improving the town centre and buying land in an effort to boost jobs and attract new investment. The £14 million is capital cash and can not be spent to offset spending cuts due to government regulations. Mr Benn told The Bolton News: “How did we get out of recession in the past?

“With investment that covers things that we need, whether it’s roads or housing.

“You can improve a site so people are prepared to build on it, in the process creating employment, so then you haven’t got people who you’re paying Jobseekers Allowance to but who are paying tax instead.”

Mr Benn — son of Labour stalwart Tony Benn — also said residents could be hit by upcoming changes to council tax benefits, which he called the “Pickles Poll Tax” in reference to local government secretary Eric Pickles.

The Bolton News reported in August how up to 3,500 people in Bolton could lose a combined £500,000 in council tax benefits after the council began a consultation on plans to replace the existing national scheme with its own.

The government is scrapping national council tax benefit as of April next year and all councils have been instructed to come up with their own schemes — but have also been hit with a 10 per cent reduction in funding.

Mr Benn said: “Come next April people who’ve never paid council tax before will find themselves paying it.”