POLICE are investigating the disappearance of thousands of pounds from Bolton Labour Party’s election fund.

Party officials in Bolton South East, who The Bolton News revealed last month had launched a probe into suspected financial irregularities, say they have handed their findings to police, who are now expected to launch an investigation of their own, following the suspension of former treasurer Cllr Sean Hornby.

On Thursday afternoon, the Labour Party confirmed it had suspended Bolton councillor Sean Hornby last month amid allegations that thousands of pounds had gone missing from a number of local party accounts.

Cllr Hornby, who represents Little Lever, was treasurer from April, 2004, to October, 2009, the period during which the money is alleged to have gone missing.

Much of the money, which had been earmarked for funding this year’s General Election campaign, had been provided by retiring MP Dr Brian Iddon over a number of years.

A Labour spokesman said: “Sean Hornby was suspended by the national Labour Party following possible irregularities in the financial affairs of the Bolton South East Constituency Party between April, 2004, and October, 2009, when Sean Hornby was the registered treasurer.

“This matter is now in the hands of the police.”

The statement was given two hours after the list of nominations for the forthcoming Bolton Council elections was released, with Cllr Hornby listed as an independent candidate.

Cllr Hornby says the disclosure of his name — which Labour had previously refused to reveal — amounted to a dirty tricks campaign.

He said: “This is a dirty tricks campaign aimed at getting me to withdraw my nomination. This election should be contested on policies.

“The position on the investigation has not changed — it is still ongoing and I, along with other people, am co-operating in every way I can.

“I have not fallen out with the Labour Party. I was aware that due to the investigation it was inappropriate for me to stand as a candidate and I fully respect their choice of Maureen Connell, the councillor I replaced in 2006.

“The decision to stand as an independent was not one I took lightly, and my papers were only submitted about an hour-and-a-half before the deadline.”

In a joint statement, Cllr Cliff Morris, leader of the Bolton Labour Group, and Len Thomas, chairman of Bolton Labour Party Local Government Committee, said Cllr Hornby was warned not to stand for election.