BOLTON’S controlling Conservative group suffered two huge blows today as two of their councillors quit the party and Liberal Democrats terminated a working agreement with the administration.

The Tories, a minority group in the council chamber but who control the authority through a working arrangement with other parties, have now lost that relationship with the borough’s seven Liberal Democrat members.

The news comes as two Conservative members, Cllr Beverley Fletcher, who represents Breightmet and Cllr Diane Parkinson, who was elected for the Hulton ward, quit the party saying that they’ didn’t feel the council have stood up to the government enough to support and protect Bolton’.

In an explosive joint statement, both councillors said that by becoming independents they would we ‘no longer have to sit meetings and listen to them discussing campaign matters when we have more important issues like saving our businesses and  saving our town’.

The statement from Cllrs Fletcher and Parkinson, said: “”Obviously we’re not happy with how the government have dealt with the national issues with the constant contradictory advice.

“We don’t feel Bolton Council has stood up to the government enough to support and protect Bolton in particular small businesses and the hospitality sector which, as a result, many are now closed having a detrimental effect on the owners, workers, their families and a rise in mental health issues.

“By us leaving the Tories we agree this wouldn’t automatically change this, however, we are no longer a part of it.

“We no longer have to sit in a meeting and listen to them discussing campaign matters when we have more important issues like saving our businesses and saving our town.

“If anybody comes to us as councillors we can voice an opinion without fear of getting a phone call the day after and telling us we shouldn’t have had our own opinion.

“As independents we will be in a better position to fight for and represent our residents and the people of Bolton without the constraints of the Conservatives.

“Bolton and all of our residents is what truly matters at heart, not political parties that seem to be more concerned in fighting for control of Bolton Council.”

A spokesman for the Conservative Group confirmed that individual letters of resignation had been handed into the borough solicitor on Tuesday, stating they wished to become Independent representatives of their respective wards.

Leader of Bolton Council, Cllr David Greenhalgh said, “We are obviously very disappointed that they no longer wish to be a part of the Conservative Group, at a time when we are working so incredibly hard to get our borough through these challenging times and onto better things for the future.”

In a separate development Liberal Democrat councillors have today terminated a working agreement with the Conservative administration of Bolton Council after they welcomed the defection to their party of an Independent councillor.

Liberal Democrat leader Cllr Roger Hayes said ‘the last straw’ was the defection to the Tories of Cllr Anna Marie Watters earlier this week.

A member for Westhoughton South, Cllr Watters defected to the Conservatives after a short time sitting as an independent councillor.

She had earlier left Labour for sharing a post by far-right group Britain First.

She said she had always been a Conservative voter, even while sitting as a Labour councillor and campaigning for Labour.

Conservative group leader David Greenhalgh said that he was “delighted” that she was joining the party.

Cllr Hayes said that was the final straw for his group’s working agreement with the Tories.

He said that the Conservatives had shown no integrity and that he felt they had also failed to consult properly on proposed budget cuts and had backtracked on promises to review the number of special allowances

that are given to councillors.

Cllr Hayes said: “In no way can we tolerate working with someone who admits having lied to her voters for nearly 10 years just to keep her seat and promotes far-right content.

“It says a lot about the state of the Conservatives in Bolton that they would welcome her with open arms. This is the final straw for us.

“We agreed to work constructively with them so that we could deliver on the pledges we made to our communities, such as extra investment in roads and footpaths, but the agreement cannot continue.

“The council is facing massive cuts this year thanks to the Conservative government and we are unhappy with the lack of consultation we’ve had and the failure to provide detailed information so we can make informed


“Our 25-point agreement also included a review of the special responsibility allowances awarded to councillors and insufficient progress has been made on reducing these despite the major cuts that have been made  across other parts of the council.

“I have personal respect for Cllr Greenhalgh and many within the Conservative Group, but we cannot continue working with them if they will show this lack of integrity just to try to keep control.”

Cllr David Wilkinson, deputy group leader for the Liberal Democrats, added: “We gave the Conservatives the chance to prove they were different to Labour but they’ve shown themselves to be more of the same.”