At a meeting of the full council on the 17th March, the Labour Group on Bolton Council called for a full independent inquiry into the actions of the council in not publishing historic Neighbourhood Management (NM) budget spends in certain areas of the town.
The Council used to allocated NM budgets to specific areas of the borough that contained concentrated clusters of multiple deprivation issues. The money was used to try to make some differences to peoples lives. The incoming Conservative Council abolished the budgets in 2019, and said it would to commit to openness and transparency by publishing a detailed breakdown of the spends from 2013. A link to a document, dated July 2019, appeared then appeared online.
The document however does not show information on Neighbourhood Management in the following areas – Breightmet, Tonge, Hulton Lane, Washacre and Johnson Fold. The NM Budgets in these geographical areas were managed by Bolton at Home on behalf of the Council, but the budgets and the details of the spend remained the Councils property, and the council has a record of the spend, as approved by local members.
The Council has never needed to obtain the permission of Bolton at Home to publish its own figures, yet in 2019, despite having the information itself, the Council requested information on the Breightmet NM spend from Bolton at Home, which Bolton at Home kindly (but unnecessarily) supplied. This information was never published by the Council.
Cllr Martin Donaghy said “All of the information that I have has been verified as correct by Bolton at Home, and I have therefore asked the Leader of the Council a number of questions relating to this issue, as follows:
- The council has records going back to 2016 of all NM spends in Bolton, so why has the Council still not published the full details of all of the NM budgets as it said it would
- Why, when the Council already had the information, did it feel the need in 2019 to seek the details of the Breightmet NM spend from Bolton at Home, but ignored every other geographical area?
- Why, even when the council received this information on Breightmet, did it not publish the details?
- The Leader is fully aware that the deliberate non publishing of this important information led to some people concluding that there must somehow be something to hide, yet he still did nothing to change this perception. Has the Leader been complicit in this deliberate deception of the people of Bolton for electoral purposes, and will the Leader instigate a full independent enquiry into the action of all of those involved with this withholding of information.
Cllr Nick Peel, Bolton Labour Group added “We innocently accepted the Council’s argument that it was Bolton at Home who were not cooperating in publishing the missing data. It only took a little digging to get the truth; that the Council has never needed the permission of Bolton at Home to publish the councils own data. We do not believe that there has been a misunderstanding, and instead believe that the withholding of this information from the public was quite deliberate and that there has been a general conspiracy of silence by the council so that the spreaders of fake news could have a field day. If the Tory Council do not launch an independent inquiry as we ask, then we will take this further, and it goes without saying that a future Labour Council certainly will.”