THE most deprived parts of the borough will lose nearly £100,000 between them as a controversial funding formula has been scrapped after accusations that the money was used by councillors to “buy votes”.

The Neighbourhood Management budget, which is used by foodbanks, youth clubs and other community projects to tackle deprivation, will now be split equally across the borough.

While 12 of the 20 council wards will benefit from the move, the poorest people in Bolton will be most affected – something which the town hall acknowledges in its own report.

Labour leader Linda Thomas told the Conservative leadership the move feels “punitive”.

She said: “You are taking the money away from the poorer parts of the borough. We know these people. They need every penny they can get. Over the last 10 years, these are the people who have struggled the hardest. In that sense, it feels punitive.

“We are not asking for this money for ourselves. You are taking it away from residents who are really, really struggling. It might be equal, but it certainly isn’t fair. You have to answer to the people you are taking it away from.”

The biggest losers from the move will be Farnworth, Rumworth and Halliwell, followed by Great Lever where 55 per cent of children are living in poverty.

Farnworth and Kearsley First leader Paul Sanders said he was "extremely disappointed" and was concerned that the council's policy of "narrowing the gap" is at risk.

Speaking after the meeting, he confirmed that local youth clubs and foodbanks will continue to receive funding but other projects will need to find money in other ways.

He said: "We will insist that our other priorities around neighbourhood environmental issues are now addressed by the council within the new £1.5m Greener Cleaner Fund and we will lobby that extra Youth and Play Sessions are kept topped-up by the council."

“Farnworth and Kearsley councillors will of course also signpost and help our fantastic partners, charities, and community and voluntary groups to apply for grant funding through the new £2m Bolton’s Fund.”

Labour councillor Nick Peel, who described the decision as “ideologically vindictive”, urged the Conservatives to rethink their proposal, raising concerns that the move could fall foul of equality law.

He said: "It isn’t about and should never be about what you can personally grab for your own ward. I don’t support the principle of targeting deprivation simply because I represent a ward with significant deprivation."

“Be very, very careful here because you are potentially falling in breach of the law. This is not just a box ticking exercise. It’s the law."

The decision was taken on Monday ahead of a review into the funding system.

It comes after months of uncertainty as the decision was called in for further scrutiny.

The majority of councillors recommended sticking with the current formula until the funding system is reviewed.

Lib Dem leader Roger Hayes said he was “very disappointed” that the Conservatives did not listen to the “very clear” council recommendation.

He said: “I think it’s illogical for you to do what you are doing. We have a system at the moment which has not worked well. Money has been used to buy votes in certain areas – we know that. It hasn’t reduced inequalities. But it needs to be reviewed.”

Council leader David Greenhalgh promised to review the funding, saying that targeted neighbourhood management is "on hold", not closed down.

He said: “I genuinely believe that the majority of the people out there thought that the existing system is flawed and for us to take over and stick wit that existing flawed system said more about us when we had an opportunity to change it."