Bolton Council brought an end to a 100-day saga as it agreed to let off the company responsible for car parks across the town centre from some of the millions it owes the authority.

The council agreed to let off National Car Parks Limited (NCP Ltd) from around £1.2 million, plus VAT, of the debt accrued by the company between the coronavirus crisis and today.

The issue came to light almost 100 days ago when the Labour Group cabinet approved NCP Ltd's request for the first time only for it to be summoned to a committee then to the chamber for a vote by all councillors. Over the course of these considerations the debt increased from £3.8 million to £4 million.

Although the vote by all councillors showed a majority of them were against the idea, the Labour Group cabinet approved NCP Ltd's request for the final time at a meeting at the town hall on Monday (January 8).

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Of the £1.2 million around a quarter of the sum is a loss to the Bolton Council budget for this year as it is able to draw the other three quarters of the sum from a central government grant set aside for these situations.

Opponents said regardless of where the money comes from it is taxpayers' money and it should not be spent on support for a company co-owned by Japanese firm Park24 Ltd and the Development Bank of Japan.

Hilary Fairclough, the deputy leader of the Conservative Group, said: "The majority of our residents think this money, whether it is in a box we can go into or it is not in a box we can go into, is an awful lot of money. 

"Residents do not think it is the right thing to do and I do not think it is the right thing to do."

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When NCP Ltd agreed to a contract with the authority, it agreed to a Guaranteed Revenue Payment to be paid once a month in return for the right to run the two multi-storey car parks on Deane Road and Topp Way, the two car parks next to The Octagon, the car park next to the market and the on-street terminals across the town centre. This Guaranteed Revenue Payment was around £80,000, plus VAT, at the most recent review.

NCP Ltd is to pay the remainder of the £4 million with no payment plan and it is to resume this payment in due course.

Hamid Khurram, the executive member for transport, said: "This decision was not taken lightly, but using a COVID grant to cover NCP's debt means the council will receive the overwhelming majority of the amount owed to us. This central government grant is money we can only use in situations like this and it would otherwise be unspent or, potentially, be returned to The Treasury. 

"The remaining amount will be managed within our existing budget for this financial year after which NCP will revert to making a monthly payment in line with pre-pandemic levels."

NCP Ltd declined to comment.

This article was written by Jack Tooth. To contact him, email or follow @JTRTooth on Twitter.