"Serious questions" were raised after letters with Bolton Council headings were sent “unsigned" and "without contact details”, encouraging people to apply for an energy scheme.

Bolton Town Hall heard how the letters were delivered to people all over the borough, with no information about contact details other than a “funding helpline".

Cllr John Walsh, of Astley Bridge, said he first heard of this when a friend of his called to say he had received one of the letters, prompting concerns about the council's handling of public money and data protection.

He said: “He was concerned to receive a letter that he was concerned was a scam.

The Bolton News: The letter in fullThe letter in full (Image: Public)

“He said it came on Bolton Council headed paper, it had no contact details when I asked him, no department.

“And the only thing he could deduce from it was yours faithfully Cllr Richard Silvester.”

He added: “I’ve never known a letter to be sent from the council without a telephone number, without contact details, unsigned but in the name of an executive member.”

The letters tell people that they can save money on their energy bills and help the environment by applying for government funded upgrades.

The Bolton News: Cllr John Walsh raised questions at a full meeting of Bolton CouncilCllr John Walsh raised questions at a full meeting of Bolton Council (Image: Bolton Council)

They say that Bolton Council is working with the Greater Manchester Combined Authority, NHS Greater Manchester and Next Energy on the scheme.

Recipients are then told that applications for free upgrades are open and that people in Bolton can check their eligibility by calling a “funding helpline".

Cllr Walsh told a full meeting of Bolton Council that he himself and several of his colleagues had since received the same letters as well, again unsigned and without contact details.

He said in nearly 50 years as councillor he had never known of a situation when letters were sent out in this way.

He demanded to know if this had been funded with public money and whether the council had breached data protection rules in sending them out.

Cllr Walsh said: “Yes, it talks about a private sector partner and of course this is part of the failed Burnham vanity campaign in which only 526 households in Greater Manchester so far benefited.”

He added: “So if somebody tries to tell me it’s the energy company that have done it, they were given backing by GMCA and by the government so it is public money in every sense.

“It poses some very serious questions.”

Cllr Walsh demanded to know who had authorised the production of the letters with Bolton Council headed paper, how it was funded and if this involved public money.

He also asked how the addresses were chosen, how this was allowed under data protection rules and how it could have had a cabinet member, Cllr Silvester’s name, attached.

Cllr Walsh said he was prepared to contact the electoral commission and the council's auditors if he did not get a satisfactory answer. 

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In response to Cllr Walsh’s questions, Bolton Council chief executive Sue Johnson said that the “Eco 4 Programme” had been funded by energy companies.

She told the council that addresses had been selected from Next Energy’s own data and that no addresses had been provided by the authority.

Ms Johnson said: “Eco 4 is a programme of grants to allow home owners to better insulate their homes.

“Next Energy is the supplier tasked with delivering this in Bolton.”

She added: “Next Energy produced the letters which included the logos of the various endorsing authorities, the intention being to give the letter credibility because we are aware that rogue traders often operate in these spaces.”