TEMPERS flared at Westhoughton Town Council last night when one councillor abstained from voting on minutes.

Cllr Jack Speight, independent, chose not to vote on council minutes, sparking angry reactions from a cross-party group who felt he was casting aspersions on the work of town clerk Christine Morris without reason.

Cllr Speight told the assembled councillors he was reserving his democratic right to vote for or against, or not to vote at all.

Cllr Wilkinson said: "If you're the leader of a political party tell us what's wrong. You can't keep sitting here for month after month after month abstaining."

Cllr David Chadwick, Labour, and chairman of the town council, Cllr Arthur Price, Labour, agreed and questioned Cllr Speight at the meeting in Westhoughton Town Hall.

Cllr Chadwick said: "I agree with [Cllr Wilkinson's] sentiments. This is nothing other than casting doubts on the town clerk."

Cllr Price told Cllr Speight his explanation was "not good enough" and told him to "save your leaflets" come the elections in May.

During the meeting Cllr Speight declined to expand on his reasons for abstaining. Afterwards he told The Bolton News he resented being voted off the Planning and Finance Committee in December 2017. He said since then he has not been receiving the minutes for these meetings and has to pick them up on the day like a member of the public might.

Cllr Speight said: "I do attend but it's not recorded I'm at the meeting. The town clerk doesn't send me the planning and finance minutes. I have to see what's going on five minutes before the meeting. I can't vote on something I haven't had chance to discuss."

Cllr Ryan Battersby, Labour, said after the meeting: "If he's abstaining for no reason he's not representing residents. He needs to decide what he's here for. It's silly."

The feud has its roots in Tweets from 2014 in which Cllr Speight, who represents Chequerbent ward, allegedly made a series of false statements online.

These included claims that he instigated the raising of the Union Flag above the town hall on Lancashire Day and that he was the only councillor to vote against an application when he was not.

Cllr Speight maintains he apologised via letter and said he was exonerated by the borough solicitor, however at a meeting in December 2017 he walked out before the matter was due to be discussed and councillors voted to throw him off the Planning and Finance and General Purposes Committee and that he could not be appointed to any committees "during the life of this town council".