BOLTON Council's justification for overturning a democratic decision to trial voter ID measures at polling booths was labelled 'feeble' by councillors tonight.

It was revealed last month that town hall chiefs had withdrawn Bolton's name from consideration to take part in a government trial to prevent voter fraud at elections, despite councillors voting in April to join the scheme.

This evening, Conservative councillor John Walsh, who raised the original motion in April, asked his fellow representatives to show their support for the trial once again and criticised the explanation offered by the council for its withdrawal.

Council leader Cliff Morris told the chamber: "As we should expect, our officers entered into a detailed discussion with the Cabinet Office about the pilot and it became clear that it did not fit the criteria that the council had debated and which we thought we would be following."

He claimed the council was unaware that the whole of the borough would be enrolled in the scheme, rather than only certain wards, and added that people with the right to vote would be unfairly penalised if they did not have certain forms of ID, such as a driving license.

The withdrawal from the trial was signed off by council chief executive and returning officer Margaret Asquith.

Cllr Walsh described that reasoning as 'feeble', adding that he saw no possible justification for a democratic decision of the council to be reversed without the matter coming back to debate in the council chamber.

He said: "The Labour Party has overturned a democratic decision with the shock justification that they did not know what they were voting for. If they didn't know what they were voting for, it is their own fault."

His motion to re-endorse the council's previous resolution was lost, after being voted down by the ruling Labour group.

Labour's Guy Harkin argued that many councillors had spoken up in April to say that they would only support the trial if they had reassurances that nobody who has the right to vote would be disenfranchised.

Cllr Nick Peel added that the last time the council tried a voting trial, when an all-postal ballot vote was tested in 2004, many voters' ballots were lost in the post.

Tory leader Cllr David Greenhalgh said: "I know that the Labour group en masse will vote against this motion, but I can see from some members that there is a little unease at the way that this has been handled.

"There will be many of you on that side who feel as left in the dark as my group did."

Cllr Martin Cox said that the Labour group should have had the 'common decency' to come back with another motion asking for Bolton to withdraw from the trial.