BOLTON deserves to be shown the same kind of ambition that has transformed Manchester city centre in the last 20 years, says the man likely to become the area’s first elected mayor.

Andy Burnham has pledged to help revitalise Greater Manchester’s outlying towns and help to connect all parts of the city-region.

The Labour mayoral candidate was speaking after the launch of his campaign manifesto, which is heavily-focused on improving the prospects of young people.

Mr Burnham said: “I think the feeling of places like Bolton being separate from other parts of the city-region comes from the sense that Manchester city centre has had all the attention and the outlying areas less so.

“There is some truth in that. We all want to see the city centre doing well and enjoy visiting there, but what we have to do in the next 20 years is apply the same ambition to the surrounding towns as has been given to the city. It is very much my agenda to balance things up in that way.

“I have been coming to Bolton all my life and it has a tremendous town centre.

“But, like anywhere, there are parts of the town centre that could be better. And one of my plans is to encourage more residential accommodation into town centres.

“You have got to encourage young people to come in and breathe life into the town centre.

“We are going to have a big focus on revitalising towns like Bolton and giving them a new injection of investment and a new role for the future — as retail and residential centres.

“You need a balance in terms of what a town centre can offer. You have the Octagon in Bolton and I have long argued that towns need cultural centres like that.”

The Leigh MP was also a guest at the University of Bolton on Wednesday night, where he was interviewed by veteran broadcaster Gordon Burns and took questions from audience members.

Another key element of his regeneration hopes is putting a stop to the cuts affecting neighbourhood policing teams — which have led to the closure of public counters at stations in Bolton and the potential shutting of Scholey Street station’s custody suite.

Mr Burnham said: “We need to make sure that people feel safe. The police cuts have gone way too far, in my view.

“You can feel it now and the public are complaining of less visibility and longer response times.

“I feel that in every community there should be a place where people can go to report crime.

“There are real issues to make sure we maintain a strong police presence and, if I win, I will be working hard to protect frontline police services from further cuts.”

His promises to Greater Manchester’s young people, should he win the election on May 4, include half-price bus travel, the creation of a Youth Combined Authority, and a university-style application system for apprenticeships.

He added: “You can’t build a strong and prosperous society by pulling the rug from under the next generation, as the Westminster government has.

“If we are going to rise to the challenge of Brexit you have to be able to say to investors that Greater Manchester has the most highly-skilled workers in the country.

“And for me that is about making sure our young people have decent opportunities at the end of school.

“But it is not enough to just provide opportunities like having more apprenticeships.

“I know that if a young person in Leigh is offered an apprenticeship in Bolton, there’s a good chance that they won’t be able to afford it.

“I think we have got to take the barrier away.

“While kids are at school and they know their travel costs are covered, they will aim their sights higher.”