OPPOSITION councillors have accused the Labour Party of buying votes by announcing a £12m investment in town centres across the borough months before local elections.

Liberal Democrat councillor David Wilkinson claimed the council view the townships as “cash cows” but are now fearful of seats that could be lost.

The Westhoughton South councillor said: “It’s only taken 40 years to remember there are other towns in this borough. The fact is that they could lose four seats in May.

“It’s the most cynical manipulation of the system I’ve seen in 40 years I’ve been in politics in Bolton. They’ve woken up because in May, Labour could lose Bolton Council”.

Labour currently hold exactly half of the 60 council seats, having lost seven since the start of 2018.

Newly-formed Farnworth and Kearsley First won three seats last year in what was described as a “political earthquake”.

Farnworth councillor Paul Sanders linked the move to his party’s success which has woken up the Labour leadership.

However, he said he was “minded” not to be suspicious that votes could have been the motivation behind the proposal.

UKIP councillor Sean Hornby was suspicious though, claiming that Labour have their eyes on Little Lever.

Labour previously lost all three seats in the Little Lever and Darcy Lever ward, but won one seat back at the last election.

Cllr Hornby said: “I suspect the reason they’re putting this money in is about getting those votes back at the next election. Little Lever is a key area for them.”

Labour councillor Kevin McKeon, who represents the Horwich North East ward, denied the allegations and explained that the timing was related to private investment.

He said: “When the money was originally borrowed it was felt that it would take some time for private sector to come in. That money has come in much quicker than anticipated.

“It’s always been a long-term ambition to work on all the townships, but it’s now become possible because the investment in Bolton town centre is going so well.”

Responding, Council leader Linda Thomas said: “I wish it was as simple as pulling a rabbit of out the hat but this is the result of work we started over twelve months ago with our £1 billion regeneration masterplan.

“It’s building on its success and generating interested from private sector investors. We are now in a position to deliver on our promise to spread the benefits across our towns in Bolton.”