ANTI-BEDROOM tax campaigners who staged a noisy protest during full council have been ‘hijacked’ by a far-left agenda, Labour members have claimed.

Members of Bolton Against the Bedroom Tax wearing masks with the face of Cllr Cliff Morris, leader of Bolton Council, disrupted the meeting on Wednesday with whistles, shouting and chants.

The group were protesting after they were told their petition, calling for the authority to adopt a ‘no evictions’ policy for those in arrears because of the under-occupancy charge, would not be discussed despite having more than 4,000 signatories — the amount needed to prompt a discussion.

After unveiling a banner over the public gallery balcony, protestors played a recording of Cllr Morris when he condemned the over-occupancy charge during a march with the group in October.

When they twice refused to quieten down after requests from the Mayor of Bolton, who chairs full council, members left the room and campaigners were escorted from the Town Hall by police officers.

Senior Labour councillor Nick Peel said the campaigners have lost sight of who the ‘real enemy’ is.

Labour has pledged to abolish the under-occupancy charge if they win the next general election, and in August 2013 Bolton Council passed a motion - with the backing of Conservative councillors - calling for the hated policy to be scrapped.

“Cliff marched through Bolton town centre with these people against the bedroom tax and was proud to do so”, Cllr Peel said.

“The cause has been taken over by the hard left, whose fight is always with Labour, not the Tory government.

“Not one of the protestors mentioned the Tory government, who are behind the introduction of the bedroom tax.

“But that is what we always get with the Trots – they don’t challenge the Conservatives, they just hate Labour.”

Linda Charnock, chairman of Bolton Against The Bedroom Tax, denied the pressure group had any political affiliations, and vowed to continue campaigning and picketing meetings.

She said: “We have got people in our group from different parties – I have been asked to join the Labour party but I won’t.

“I have not got a political agenda, I just want something done about it.

“They have passed our petition to Bolton At Home, but they are not the only housing providers in Bolton — if we wanted the petition to go to Bolton At Home we would have taken it there.

“The council say they can’t do anything but they are in control of the Discretionary Housing Payments, they can help people.

“There are people who are not going to have anything at Christmas, who cannot afford to live, to eat and who are freezing because of bedroom tax arrears — and Bolton Council can help them.”

'Already debated'

IN an email seen by The Bolton News, the council’s solicitor told the campaign group the authority had already debated the issues raised in August 2013 and supported a ‘no homelessness’ policy.

The email continues: “Obtaining 4,000 signatures or more ‘normally’ leads to the petition being debated by the full Council but only ‘if deemed appropriate’.

“Having reviewed your petition it appears that it is not appropriate for a debate at full Council to take place.

“The reasons for this decision are that the Council does not have any direct responsibility for or control over the issue of Bedroom Tax.

“As the issue really is the responsibility of other organisations and not a matter within the Council’s direct responsibility it would not be appropriate to debate this at full council.”