The decision to let off National Car Parks Limited (NCP Ltd) from some of the millions it owes the council appears "undemocratic" according to a councillor.

Roger Hayes, a councillor for Smithills Ward and leader of the Liberal Democrats, made the comment at a meeting of the council at the town hall on Wednesday.

It comes after the council agreed to let off NCP Ltd from around £1.2 million, plus VAT, of the debt it accrued in between the coronavirus crisis and the present.

The issue came to light last year when the Labour Group cabinet approved the company'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.

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

Cllr Hayes said the decision appears "undemocratic" from the perspective of the average resident.

Cllr Hayes said: "To the average resident it seems undemocratic a cabinet consisting of members of a party without majority control can ignore the majority of councillors.

"Would the council leader [Nick Peel] care to comment on this apparent failure of democracy?"

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Of the £1.2 million around a quarter of the sum is a loss to the 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.

Cllr Peel said: "In 2000 the council adopted the model of an elected leader and a cabinet. It means decisions are normally only for the elected leader and the cabinet to take. 

"The council has a function which is to hold those decision-makers to account and it is an important function. But this is the model we all accept unless I have misunderstood."

Referring to the ill-fated introduction of a fortnightly bin collection almost 20 years ago, Cllr Peel said: "When Cllr Hayes and his colleagues pushed through a fortnightly bin collection we called it to scrutiny. A vote was taken by the council for him to reverse his decision and did he reverse his decision? No.

"Perhaps he would like to comment on democracy? Please spare us the hand wringing and double standards."

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