THE future of town councils in Bolton has been plunged into further doubt after Westhoughton Town Council said it would be “illegal” to have a debate on impending changes to a care home.
Proposed changes to Winifred Kettle Community Care Centre will not be discussed at tonight’s planning meeting of Westhoughton Town Council, which has sparked fury from members.
It is part of a scheme which will see Firwood House in Crompton Way close, as the council reorganises post-hospital care.
Town councillors argue that their input is crucial, and there is little point to the town council if it cannot debate local issues.
Cllr David Wilkinson, for Hoskers and Hart Common, requested the issue be placed on the agenda but was told the town council would be acting illegally if it took any action on Winifred Kettle.
The care home is named after a former Westhoughton town councillor who was mayoress four times between 1948 and 1973.
Last month, Conservative borough councillor Andy Morgan — a former Westhoughton town councillor — suggested that town councils should be abolished as the money could be better spent elsewhere. He said this issue further underlined his point that town councils serve “little purpose”.
Westhoughton mayor Cllr Christopher Peacock and council leader Cllr David Chadwick said the matter was down to jurisdiction, with health not falling under the town council’s purview.
Cllr Wilkinson said: “If we can’t discuss Westhoughton issues, what have we got a town council for?”
Cllr Lynda Winrow-Baker, for Daisy Hill, added: “It is our town and the town council should have an active role in the decision.”
Cllr Morgan said: “Something as fundamental as the closure of an intermediate care home is a prime example of what little input town councils really have. The bigger question is can we afford this level of non-decision-making bureaucracy?”
Cllr Peacock said: “Westhoughton has six councillors on Bolton borough and we represent the town’s concerns on these issues there.
"I am cabinet member for adult services so if anyone has any concerns about Winifred Kettle, get in touch with me.”
Town councils discuss planning applications in their role as as a statutory consultee.