COUNCIL leader Cliff Morris says he is looking forward to turning Labour's election pledges into reality after holding on to power in Bolton.

Bolton's Labour party bucked the national trend by gaining a seat and Cllr Morris increased his own vote against stiff competition.

He said: "I am very pleased that the people of Bolton have put their trust in us. They realised that we have done what we said we would do and the people have appreciated that."

Cllr Morris reiterated the pledge of free school meals in the first term for all first-year primary school pupils from September and said the party would consider expanding it to all primary school children, depending on budget limitations.

"Offering free school meals would take away the stigma associated with them and help tackle obesity and the diet of our young children," he said.

The money will come from the dividends the council receives from part-owning Manchester Airport.

The new council is Labour 27, Conservative 23, Lib Dem 9 and Independents 1.

Cllr Morris said the council's assault on obesity would continue with free swimming lessons for children who had not managed to learn at school.

A council tax freeze helped woo voters this year and Cllr Morris said he hoped to keep any increase next year to the rate of inflation.

He also looked forward to the introduction of the promised free shuttle bus linking town centre sites within two months.

He said the party would continue to strive for efficiency savings throughout the council. A panel has been established to monitor every job that comes up to see if it needed to be done and, if so, how could the council save money.

Cllr Morris repeated his vow to oppose any congestion charge on routes into Bolton. He promised the council would abide by the decision of voters in a public poll as to whether it should support Greater Manchester's bid for £3 billion in transport funding that would see road tolls payable in Manchester.

But he said if people were to be persuaded to leave their cars at home, then trains and buses had to be made more available and affordable to those who used them.

He added that future investment in Bolton would bring many benefits to Bolton.