OPPOSITION leaders have welcomed news of Cliff Morris’ decision to step down as Bolton Council leader on December 31.

Cllr David Greenhalgh, leader of Bolton’s Conservative group, said the 75-year-old’s position had become ‘untenable’ amid wide-ranging calls for his resignation.

He said: "Cllr Morris' position as leader had become untenable, with calls for his resignation, not only coming from the opposition, but from the unions and those within his own party. He has always said his group would decide, well perhaps he's jumped before he is pushed.

"The unpopular decisions he has taken and led on, the due process he has flaunted, and the personal fiefdom he has created have proved a toxic cocktail that even he could not swallow in the end.

"The ruling Labour Group will now wish to present this new change in personnel at the top as a new start, and attempt to draw a line under recent controversial decisions, but the people of Bolton must never forget that every unpopular decision taken by Cllr Morris, including the highly controversial Asons grant, when challenged, was supported, defended and rubber-stamped by the entire Labour Group.

"On a personal note, I wish Cllr Morris all the best for his retirement.

"As Leader of the Opposition, although we disagree politically, and have different priorities for our town, he has always been fair and respectful to me; and although we have had numerous arguments and confrontations over issues, it has never affected our working relationship. The level of personal abuse that he has received over recent months is, to me, unacceptable, and I'm sure, in time, he will mark this decision as a great relief."

"Cliff's health has not been great, and I would like to — on behalf of myself and the UKIP Group — wish him well as he will be able to spend more time with his family."

Bolton Council leader Cliff Morris to step down on December 31 after 11 years in charge

Kevin Walsh, chairman of Bolton Liberal Democrats, praised Cllr Morris' 'passion and commitment' even in the face of personal attacks on his leadership.

He said: “We welcome the decision by Cllr Morris to step down as leader of the council, something we have been calling for since the news broke regarding his decision to grant Asons £300,000 without any due diligence almost 12 months ago to the day.

“That said, while we fundamentally disagree with the way he has run the council during his tenure and the decisions he and his cabinet have made, we acknowledge the hard work under immense pressure he has put in over his time as leader.

“The personal attacks levelled at Cllr Morris over the past few years had been abhorrent and should not be something anyone has to deal with.

"Yet Cllr Morris has never let this affect his passion and commitment to his role. Being leader of a council is a thankless task and whilst we almost never saw eye to eye we fully respect him as a political opponent and can only thank him for his work as leader."

'Vicious' cuts and ‘game-changing’ plans — Bolton Council leader Cliff Morris looks back on career

Sir David Crausby, Labour's Bolton North East MP, said: "He has given a lot of good service to the town, but has also faced some difficult challenges as leader.

"Politics is different when you are in opposition — it is very easy to criticise those who are in power.

"I think Cliff has suffered from that over the years. I wish him well and thank him for his service to the town over many years, and I think it is good that he has chosen his own time to go."

Chris Green, the Conservative MP for Bolton West, said: "Despite Cllr Morris and myself having our political differences, I would like to pay tribute for his long service — not only to his own council ward but also his commitment to people across the borough."