HISTORIC changes have taken place at Bolton Council this month. Local Democracy Reporter JOSEPH TIMAN speaks to the newest members at the town hall about the year ahead.

A TOTAL of 11 new councillors will represent residents across the borough this year.

Their election has helped swing the balance of power at the town hall which is set to be led by the Conservatives for the first time in 40 years.

But new hyper-local parties were the biggest winners this year with the indepedent groups in Farnworth, Kearsley, Horwich and Blackrod picking up four seats between them on the night.

The Liberal Democrat group doubled in size at these elections with three more seats, while the Conservatives also have three new councillors.

Labour lost seven seats on the night but have a new councillor in Crompton, where Cllr Martin McMulkin has taken long-standing member Guy Harkin’s seat.

Veteran Bromley Cross councillor Norman Critchley, also stood down this year with his successor, Cllr Samantha Connor, holding on to the seat for the Conservatives.

She has been a community volunteer for a number of years as a school governor, litter-picking organiser and vice-chair of the Egerton Park Improvement Committee (EPIC), helping to fundraise £100,000, before becoming involved with the local Conservative group.

She said: “I first became involved in helping David Greenhalgh and Norman Critchley with leafleting, getting an idea of what they did. I wanted to be more involved as I don’t work so I’m able to help in the community.”

The new member promises to an “active” and “proactive” councillor. One way she will do this is by starting up surgeries again in her ward.

She added: “I’m looking forward to being more involved and having more resources to help people who live locally. I’m just getting busier and busier. I’m excited and getting stuck in.”

Her Conservative colleague, Cllr Beverley Fletcher, beat high-profile Labour councillor John Byrne in Breightmet.

The legal secretary won by a majority of nearly 300 votes following in the footsteps of Cllr Adele Warren who gained the seat for the Tories by a similar margin last year.

Cllr Fletcher was “ecstatic” on election night which entered with an “open mind”.

She said: “On the door you get a kind of feeling but I never take anything for granted. You never know what’s round the corner.”

The Conservatives also made a gain in Hulton where Cllr Derek Bullock beat Labour’s Shaf Shaikh.

The retired British Gas engineer told The Bolton News that it is a good time to be a new councillor.

He said: “I’m really looking forward to becoming involved as a councillor, especially in this time in Bolton of historic proportions. Over the last few years, people have been upset about what’s gone on in town especially with the town centre and Asons.”

The Lib Dems won both seats in Westhoughton where legal professionals Bernadette Eckersley-Fallon and Deirdrie McGeown were elected.

The party also gained in Smithills where Cllr Garry Veevers took a seat previously belonging to former group member Carole Swarbrick.

The Tesco manager who lives locally said he is delighted with his majority of more than 1,100 votes.

He said: “We’ve got a proud tradition with Lib Dems in Smithills. The electors recognise the work we do.”

The latest group to join the council, Horwich and Blackrod First Independents, won two seats in their first election as a party.

Town councillors Peter Wright, an online retailer, and Marie Brady, a civil engineer, unseated two Labour representatives in the area.

Following the victory, a party spokesman said: “The towns of Horwich and Blackrod have sent an unbelievably clear message to Bolton, that it is time for change in this borough.

“It’s time for fairness. It’s time for equity of funding, fair housing allocations across the borough, it’s time for adequate infrastructure to support developments before they are implemented, it’s time to protect our green spaces such as Pickup’s Field and all our playing fields and play areas.”

Meanwhile, newly elected councillors Paul Heslop and Lisa Weatherby won seats for Farnworth and Kearsley First, taking their group’s total at Bolton Council to five.

Cllr Heslop, who is a training officer in social security, told The Bolton News that the ruling Labour group should be “incredibly worried” but he thinks they now get the message.

Cllr Weatherby, who works as a national administration manager, said that the people have had enough and she wants to fight for her hometown of Farnworth.