A FUNDING formula which favours the most deprived areas should stay in place until a review is complete, councillors have said.

The most deprived parts of the borough would continue to get the lions’ share of the area working and neighbourhood management budget if the leadership at the town hall heeds to the calls of the majority of councillors.

This comes after the Conservatives wanted to split the £300,000 pot equally between all 20 council wards, benefitting most, but leaving the most deprived thousands of pounds worse off.

But community projects which benefit from the fund continue to face uncertainty as a final decision may not be taken until the new year.

Labour leader Linda Thomas welcomed the review but urged the council to not take away in-year funding allocations in what she described as a “knee jerk” and “punitive” move.

She said: “Let’s not throw the baby out with the bath water. Narrowing the gap has always been our mantra. Cross-party for many, many years and I always believed that in the interest of all people in the town, this was a cross party ambition. Please don’t do this at the expense of denying those who have the least advantage and the worst outcomes on all fronts.”

Her deputy, Cllr Akhtar Zaman, said the proposal could breach the Equalities Act because it disproportionately affects certain groups.

Executive cabinet member Nadim Muslim, who is responsible for stronger communities portfolio, described his proposal as a “step in the right direction”.

Cllr Muslim also said the “dither and delay” over the decision, which was called in for scrutiny by Labour in September, has meant councillors have not been able to award funds at area forums.

He said: “We will continue to target funding, but where it is appropriate and where it can be monitored, ensuring that the Bolton taxpayers is getting the best value for their pound and actually tackling deprivation where it really does exist.”

Conservative councillor John Walsh said the evidence shows that Bolton’s approach to tackling poverty has not worked noting that 92 per cent of deprived areas in Bolton have become more deprived despite the targeted funding.

Council leader David Greenhalgh said that “fairer funding” was one of the Tories’ election pledges and reaffirmed his administration’s commitment to tackling deprivation.

He said: “It is no good if we do not tackle the root cause of deprivation and attempt to do something that for 40 years the party opposite failed to do.”

Lib Dem leader Roger Hayes, who put forward the motion on the night, argued that the council should stick with the current funding model until it is reviewed and a better system is proposed.

He said: “I think the leadership of all the groups in this chamber do believe we should seriously be looking at inequalities which have dangerously increased. The life expectancy between different parts of Bolton is horrific. To think that somebody living in Bromley Cross can expect to live quite a few number of years longer than somebody living in Halliwell or Crompton. That is an absolute disgrace.”

The decision has been referred back to cabinet but the matter is not on the agenda for Monday’s meeting.