ACTRESS Maxine Peake is backing a campaign to provide the people of Bolton access to free legal advice.

Campaigners are calling for a Law Centre to be set up in the town — and are urging local people to support them.

The former Westhoughton High School pupil will be speaking at a public meeting at Bolton Library next month as part of the drive to open the ‘urgent and necessary’ centre.

Greater Manchester Law Centre (GMLC) campaign group works to ensure people are able to get free legal advice through Law Centres.

Maxine, who starred in the hit BBC drama Silk in which she played a barrister, is a GMLC patron. She said: “More and more families and individuals are finding themselves in positions where access to the law is being denied them, at precisely the time when they are most in need of it. Universal Credit, the denial of employment rights through zero hours contracts and minimum wage infringements and a hardening of this government’s stance against refugees and asylum seekers all make the Greater Manchester Bolton Law Centre urgent and necessary. I welcome and support the initiative whole-heartedly.”

She will be joined by Bolton East MP, Yasmin Qureshi, a barrister, and Denise McDowell, Trustee of GMLC.

Ms Qureshi said: “I know, from the hundreds of people who contact me, how difficult life has become for many in the Greater Manchester area.

“Many are facing serious debts, or the threat of homelessness, and others can simply not afford to speak to a solicitor.

“That’s why I’m so pleased to hear about the launch of the Greater Manchester Law Centre, a service that will provide invaluable advice and representation to the people who need it most.”

The campaign is being backed by Bolton Trades Union Council (TUC).

Kev Allsop, from Bolton TUC, said: “There is perhaps no clearer indication of this Tory government’s values than the way it has accompanied its vicious attacks on the poor with attacks on those organisations which represent the victims. Jobseekers, benefit claimants, bedroom tax victims, the disabled, asylum seekers - all have seen legal aid removed or priced beyond their means.

“At a time when the Citizens Advice Bureau in Bolton has been more necessary than ever, it has suffered very damaging funding cuts. Disabled people found fit to work by untrained staff from outsourced firms are left in severe distress, struggling to find find help. Some have been driven to take their own lives. Homelessness is increasing relentlessly as the austerity-fixated Tories drive more people into poverty.

“Bolton people will be aware of the struggles faced by many, but unaware of this government's determination to also deprive them of legal representation; Bolton TUC is determined to work towards establishing a Law Centre that will help to represent all those in struggle, free of charge; a Law Centre that will also campaign on issues where deprived groups are being targeted so that the rich can prosper. We are confident that this will find support across the town.”

A spokesman for GMLC said: “There were nine fully staffed Law Centres in Greater Manchester. Cuts in funding and Legal Aid reduced this to two; one in Rochdale and one in Bury.

“In 2015 we said if enough people wanted a Law Centre, there would be one.

“In 2016 we opened our doors in Moss Side – since then we have helped Greater Manchester residents to reclaim over £500,000 in benefits that the DWP had denied them.

“Now we need to do the same in Bolton. Get involved, come to the meeting.”

The Bolton Needs a Law Centre public meeting will take place on February 2 starting at 7pm and going on until 8pm at the Lecture Theatre in Bolton Library.