CLIFF Morris will leave his successor as council leader a very different Bolton to the one he inherited more than a decade ago.

The intervening years have seen major developments such as the creation of the Logistics North business hub and the redevelopment of the Market Place Shopping Centre, while even greater changes are in the works with a £1 billion masterplan to transform Bolton town centre.

It has also been a time of swingeing cuts at the town hall, with more than £150 million slashed from the council’s annual budget over the past six years.

Bolton Council leader Cliff Morris to step down on December 31 after 11 years in charge

Cllr Morris condemned the government’s ‘attacks on local government’, describing them as ‘sustained and vicious’.

He said: “We have stayed determined in the face of the challenges.

“We have stuck to our principles and helped ensure that despite having more than £150 million cut from our budgets, we are still delivering vital services to our customers and still making a difference to the lives of people in Bolton.”

Cllr Morris was born in Bolton, went to nursery at Pikes Lane, school at Top o’th’Brow and Castle Hill and trained as a chef at Bolton College.

He served as a magistrate for 20 years and has been a governor of Gilnow Primary School for 40 years, which he will would continue to do.

After his chef’s training, he joined catering firm Percival’s in Bolton Market Hall and later ran the Lamplighter restaurant.

He was just 16 years old when he joined the firm and remained with it for the next 44 years.

He was Mayor of Bolton in 2003/04 and has also served as a member of the Greater Manchester Combined Authority, where he currently holds the arts and culture portfolio and previously had the children’s services brief.

Cllr Morris says that he was driven to enter politics to help tackle social inequality and help fashion a society that was more compassionate.

He said: “These beliefs led to me getting involved with the local Labour party.

“My real passion has been social services.

“The strong beliefs that led me to get involved in socialist politics are the same beliefs that drove my commitment to provide the best services possible for the most vulnerable people in our town.

“I have tried to ensure that we remain true to that deeply held principle.”

He added that he believed a huge amount had been achieved in his time as leader.

He said this included new additions to the University of Bolton, a purpose-built college and sixth form, the new bus and rail interchange, the refurbished Albert Halls, Bolton One, the new health and wellness centre in Horwich and Logistics North.

He was particularly proud of the Bolton Food and Drink Festival, which he said had become one of the most successful in the country.

Cllr Morris, who has represented Halliwell ward since 1984, added: “Change is constant – there is no time to stand still. This can be challenging, but also very exciting.”

He described the £100m council investment in a town centre masterplan as a ‘brave decision’ that would be ‘game-changing’.

Cllr Morris said: “We have taken some really tough decisions to modernise our waste service which has driven up recycling by over 16 per cent and saved more than £6 million a year.

“We have encouraged our partners across Bolton to deliver investments of more than half a billion pounds.”

The Labour leader has endured many controversies during his time in office, perhaps most notably the decision to award a £300,000 grant to now-defunct law firm Asons last year.

Cllr Morris has always maintained that he believes he did nothing wrong in approving the grant, which was later recovered when the firm ceased trading, but faced widespread calls to step down over his actions.

The town hall’s leadership also came in for heavy criticism over the departure of former council chief executive Paul Najsarek, who quit his post after just five months in 2015 but still left with a settlement of £90,000.

Cllr Morris’ own party has also become divided recently, amid an ongoing row over a councillor who was at the centre of a town hall tax scandal.

His support for Cllr Ismail Ibrahim’s candidacy at next year’s local elections, after the Rumworth representative was exposed last year for having not paid his council tax on time, caused a fracture within the Bolton Labour Party that led to two senior figures being ousted.

Since that story hit the headlines again in September, Cllr Morris has faced votes of no confidence in his leadership from the Bolton West Constituency Labour Party and from Unison leaders, who represent thousands of council workers.