BOLTON'S Labour group voted unanimously against a motion which disagreed with the council's decision to grant law firm Asons a grant of £300,000.

All Labour councillors at tonight's meeting rallied behind under-fire leader Cliff Morris, who had earlier faced a barrage of abuse from the public gallery as well as a protest of more than 200 people calling for his resignation before the meeting.

The motion prompted one of the more vicious and bad tempered debates heard in the chamber in recent years, with Labour rounding on its author, Tory leader Cllr Greenhalgh and suggesting that he highlighted the Asons case because he is in danger of losing control of his own party.

A clearly angry Cllr Morris insisted that his opposite number was notified about the Asons deal and said: "So I have to put up with crap like what was shouted at me tonight because you didn't check your email or your pigeon hole."

He added: "We have worked with other businesses, we tried to keep Beales in the town, we went to BHS to try to keep them in the town."

He also hit out at people who say the town centre is struggling, adding: "On the last three Saturdays there were no parking spaces, Bolton is booming."

On the subject of the Asons deal, Cllr Morris indicated that negotiations had started 'nine months' before the deal was signed off in September.

In his motion about the Asons grant, Cllr Greenhalgh had asked: "Why did it have to be done under emergency powers, what was so urgent about this?

"Were Asons really saying that we will move out of Bolton unless we get £300,000?

"If there is nothing to hide, why is everything hiding? and everything is still secret?"

The Tory leader himself became a target, with Labour suggesting his campaign on the Asons deal was because he was facing a  leadership challenge from his own party.

In an explosive speech,Labour Cllr Akhtar Zaman criticised Cllr Greenhalgh for leaking the grant news to The Bolton News.

He said: "If you use the Bolton News as your first port of call for reporting confidential information, you are unfit to be the leader of your party."

But Cllr Greenhalgh hit back, and claimed that when he first complained about the Asons deal he was received the response from Cllr Morris of 'well, we are doing it'.

On the deal itself, he added: "If it looks like it, and it smells like it, then it is it."

Cllr Greenhalgh did have the support from his members regarding his motion, with all Tories as well as UKIP and the Liberal Democrats (bar the abstaining Cllr Carole Swarbrick) voting in favour of it.

However, with every Labour councillor objecting, the motion was defeated.