AN ARGUMENT over the whereabouts of £325,000 earmarked for improving Farnworth town centre has escalated — after it was revealed that it has already been spent.

Last month, Labour hit out at ‘scurrilous and baseless’ accusations about the regeneration of Farnworth by UKIP candidate Will Pilkington, after his election leaflet questioned what had happened to the money granted to Bolton Council by Tesco as part of the deal for its Long Causeway store.

Despite Labour saying at the time that the £325,000 was ‘secure’ and set to be spent this year, Bolton Council now says that the money has already been spent in order to avoid having to pay it back. Under the terms of the deal struck for the Tesco store, the council had to spend the cash within five years or return it.

Due to severe delays to a regeneration of Brackley Street planned by developers St Modwen, the council says it opted to spent the money on another Farnworth project and set aside other £325,000 for Brackley Street.

However, the town hall could not confirm what the first £325,000 was spent on.

A council spokesman said: “The council entered into a section 106 agreement as part of the planning arrangements for the Tesco in Farnworth. It was a condition of the agreement that the section 106 money — £325,000 — had to be spent within five years of receiving all of the payments.

“To ensure that Farnworth benefited from this money the council invested £325,000 in improvements in Farnworth town centre and set aside an additional £325,000 for investment in the refurbishment of Brackley Street.

“This money is still held and available for Farnworth town centre, and work is due to begin in Spring 2018.”

Bolton UKIP chairman, Cllr Paul Richardson, said he has seen no evidence of such spending.

He said: “If this £325,000 has been spent on Farnworth then surely someone would have noticed. You would think that Labour and the council would be shouting from the rooftops about spending this money.

“The only thing that has been noticeable in that time is the closure and demolition of Farnworth Market.

“The residents of Farnworth, Kearsley, and Harper Green were told that this money would be providing a major boost to the town centre. Now it has supposedly been spent, but the town centre is no different to how it was before.”

A Bolton Labour Group spokesman, said: “This is a double win for Farnworth residents, in terms of the money invested, and ring fenced by us, to facilitate regeneration in Farnworth and the improvements that residents have told us they want to see.

“We have growing business confidence in the borough on our side and we have bid for Farnworth to be included in the Town Centre Challenge, which has the potential to open the town up to the breadth of opportunity across Greater Manchester.

“Farnworth is ideally situated to benefit from additional investment, with its main motorway and railway arteries. We will be keeping residents updated.”