THOUSANDS of pounds of the Royal Bolton Hospital’s money was spent on controversial smoking shelters — before the decision to reinstall them was made by the public.

Three shelters, costing £1,200 each, were purchased on April 11, just under two months before decision to reinstate the facilities went to public vote.

The purchase made by trust was flagged up at a meeting of Bolton’s full council.

But hospital bosses have insisted if the public had voted no, the shelters would have been used for another purpose, elsewhere on site.

Cllr Sufrana Ismail, the council’s cabinet member for public health, alleged the decision to reinstate the shelters had already been taken before the consultation — which included an online poll — had been completed. She told the chamber: “On April 9 at a trust team briefing held at Breightmet Health Centre, the Interim Director of Operations announced that the trust was re-installing smoking shelters.

“On April 19 he stated that the shelters were purchased and were going in.

“On June 3 there was a front page article in The Bolton News called “Smoking: Your Say” – should smoking shelters be reinstated at the hospital? You decide in our Vote.

“The trust stated it would abide by the vote.”

The Royal Bolton NHS Foundation Trust has since admitted the shelters were bought before the public vote.

Heather Edwards, head of communications for Royal Bolton NHS Trust, said: ”Three shelters were purchased on April 11 and at the point of the team briefing referred to it had been intended to install them as smoking shelters.

“However, after discuss-ion the chief operating officer decided not to do this and instead to listen to the views of staff and local people before any decision was made either way. The shelters can be used for other purposes, for instance to provide cover for people using the cash machines in the main car parks.

“The issues around smoking on site are complex and controversial, with strong feelings on all sides. The Trust Board will be discussing the issue further.”

The Bolton News was not aware that the shelters had been purchased. The hospital has already started building the shelters.