TOWN hall chiefs have unanimously agreed to write to the government over concerns about police funding – but only after a robust exchange of views in the council chamber.

Labour councillor Anna-Marie Watters called for support for her motion urging ministers to work with Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham “to keep our communities safe and give our police forces the resources they need”.

It was ultimately backed by members of all parties at last night’s full meeting of Bolton Council. But not before a heated discussion which saw the Labour and Tory groups each accuse the other of using the issue as a “political football”.

Cllr Watters motion said the council was “working within the limitations of its powers, to fill the gap left by police funding cuts".

And the cabinet member for community issues told the chamber that since the coalition government came to power the police had faced had been “most vicious cuts to funding ever”.

She said: “This is shameful. In the 2018/19 budget a mere 69 per cent of funding will be provided by central government with 32 per cent of the share coming from local taxation. This is not fair.”

“Most councillors have held many meetings with vulnerable, upset residents who no longer feel safe in their own homes and business who need protection”

But while Conservative members said they were prepared to support the motion, they took issue with some of the claims made by Cllr Watters and her Labour colleagues.

Cllr Paul Wild said: “I, along with many of my colleagues in the room, am extremely concerned about the law and order situation. Cuts in resources are a contributory factor, but additional factors do create problems in Bolton.”

He said a high turnover of police officers and a lack of “stability and continuity” were not helping, but top-performing Durham Constabulary had shown that “by utilising current resources in a better way you can get results.”

Cllr Ann Galloway said she agreed crime was an important issue but took issue with the “alarmist language” used in Cllr Watters motion.

A combative Cllr Nadim Muslim disputed a direct link between a decrease in police numbers and an increase in crime, telling the chamber that the ease with which people can now report crime and higher confidence in the service had skewed the statistics.

He added that the issue “shouldn’t be used as a political football whenever the opportunity presents itself.”

And Cllr John Walsh said Andy Burnham could have used his powers to “raise funds and redirect them into policing” by hiking the police precept element of council tax to its maximum level.

He said: “He declined to do so because he thought raising taxes would be unpopular with the electorate. By the same token the government has to make hard decisions over spending.”

But Labour found support from both UKIP and the Liberal Democrats.

UKIP group leader, Cllr Sean Hornby, said: “Our Police are doing the best they can with what they have but because of the cuts – Tory cuts.

He added: “We need more resources we need it now there is only so much that this council can do to fill in the gap. We supported the £100,000 investment in the budget to set up community watch schemes. I believe that should have come from the government.”

And Cllr David Wilkinson, leader of the Liberal Democrat group, disagreed with Conservative criticisms of the motion, telling the meeting “it could have been a little bit more robust, in fact.”

And he said that cuts had led to a culture of “fire-fighting policing” which had “taken away the human aspect” from the service.

He added: “People want to be met, involved and see a human being in a uniform and occasionally a detective. Police cuts have had such a detrimental effect on neighbourhood policing.”