COUNCILLORS in Bolton have backed a budget which will mean £35m of cuts and hundreds of council job losses over the next year.

The Conservative-led authority, which holds control with the co-operation of a number of smaller parties, narrowly won a vote of all councillors after a three-hour debate.

The budget was carried by 28 votes to 22 with the Liberal Democrats on the council abstaining from the vote. Labour voted against the budget.

Councillors representing Farnworth and Kearsley First, Horwich and Blackrod First and UKIP all voted in favour of the budget.

The budget, which will see across the board cuts in all council departments will also see council tax payers in Bolton face an increase in bills of 3.8 per cent.

Cllr David Greenhalgh told councillors that it was 'with a heavy heart' that such massive cutbacks had to be included.

He said existing financial pressures, coupled with the effects of the pandemic had led to a ‘perfect storm’ on the authority’s finances.

Opposition leader Cllr Nick Peel branded the proposals "immoral" and said: "Labour will have no part in these plans."

He added: “The unjustness of this budget is staggering.

"The fact that the majority of councillors did not agree with us, and instead backed the Tory budget is equally staggering.

“Covid related costs amount to around £18 million of the £37 million worth of cuts, and we have consistently argued that this is an immoral and irresponsible situation that the Tory Government have placed us in.

“When they promised that no council would be out of pocket as a result of Covid, they had no intention of keeping to that promise.

“They are guilty of a dereliction of duty towards Bolton.

“We asked the Government for extra help and they ignored us. We asked the Government to at least allow us more time to spread the pain out and they ignored us.

“I believe that had we not passed this budget tonight, the Government would have found the extra cash to help us, as it has with other councils.

Failure to pass a balanced budget would have been contrary to the legal requirements of a council and could have led to Whitehall officials taking control of the authority’s finances.

Cllr Greenhalgh, said: “Nobody wants to bring forward proposals for cuts on this scale.

“Nobody goes into politics to take millions out of budgets, but if you are in politics, difficult decisions have to be faced and responsibility acknowledged, and whichever party had been in control, they would have been faced with delivering these cuts and they would have had the responsibility of delivering a legal budget, just as the nine Labour leaders of the other nine Greater Manchester boroughs are proposing to do.”