BOLTON is known most famously for Peter Kay and Warburtons bread, but there is a growing population that is disenfranchised.
Locals, known as ‘Boltonians’ are being exposed to uncomfortable revelations in how their council tax has been used to support the ruling Labour party, that controls the authority.
The allocation of funding approved by the Labour party in Bolton has crossed not only ethnicity but religious lines, bringing the town and the residents into worrying levels of division.
A small local Facebook page ‘Bolton Clowncil’ sought to bring transparency, openness, honesty and accountability to Bolton and inadvertently uncovered financial misappropriation of taxpayer funding that could lead to potential court action for unlawful discrimination under the Equality Act of 2010.
It was revealed under a pot funding named ‘Corporate Voluntary, Community and Faith Sector funding’ that the local authority had been handing funding to four religious organizations that existed to promote religious worship. Bolton Council of Mosques, Bolton Christian Community Cohesion, Bolton Interfaith Council and Bolton Hindu Forum, the population from the latest census showed that the Christian population was 173,608, the Muslim population 32,385 and the Hindu population 5,988.
The allocation of funding, however, was that the Bolton Council of Mosques from 2013 to 2018 received £619,848, Bolton Christian Community Cohesion received £199,324 and Bolton Hindu Forum received £199,234. The four wards in which the religious funding benefited had been four Labour wards of Crompton, Great Lever, Halliwell and Rumworth controlled by twelve Labour Councillors, the Deputy Council Leader, former Council Leader and current Council Leader Linda Thomas.
The same four wards in which a previous pot of funding for years had been used to tackle deprivation in the town which saw 48% of the funding allocated to those four ward, when there had been twenty wards in Bolton. As a contributor to the page Bolton Clowncil I took it upon myself to speak to the public, release these figures and ask them if they found it acceptable that tax payers money was being used to support a religious organization that described itself under their constitution as existing in part as; “the advancement in the understanding of the Islamic religion” and “establishing and maintenance of Mosques” The publics response to the revelation that not only had a minority faith been granted three times more funding than a majority faith was outrage that any funding had been granted to any religious faith for the promotion of that religion.
On the 20th March the petition with 900 signatures was handed in to the full council chambers to which the following speech was made; “I hope that no political party attempts to abuse this petition for political gain, this petition asks that the use of council tax to promote religious worship is ceased, I have no doubt however that certain Councillors whose wards have financially benefited from this funding will attempt to shut down debate on this issue with accusations of racism, this will only serve to cause division in a town already divided by the discriminatory allocation of funding which has been approved by this authority.
Under the Equality Act of 2010, the council must have due regard to eliminate unlawful discrimination. Yet under the ‘Corporate Voluntary, Community and Faith Sector Funding’ almost all funding for the promotion of faiths has been spent in the four wards of Rumworth, Crompton, Great Lever and Halliwell. Four wards controlled by 12 Labour Councillors.
The figures behind the Funding’ show disconcerting levels of discrimination against different faiths in the allocation of funding. The largest majority faith in Bolton has not been granted the largest funding, instead a minority faith with only a fifth the size has been granted three times more funding than the largest faith group in Bolton. The answer to this puzzle, no doubt lies in the fact that the majority faith accounts for all 20 wards, instead of just the four labour wards.
In a time of austerity in which the ruling Labour majority should not be funding the promotion of religious worship, as that funding only benefits the followers of that faith and is therefore discriminatory.
The public have asked that Bolton Council cease all grant funding payments made to faith organizations whose primary goal is to promote their faith. The public I hope, carefully consider that their anger should not be directed towards any faith groups but instead that anger should be directed towards positive change in the May local elections by voting for a candidate who does not support discrimination.”
The response was met with silence from all parties as the ruling Labour party had prepared a response to the petition, which would be later read out.
Council Leader Linda Thomas spoke and branded the petition an excuse to attack a minority faith, that those who had signed the petition, deemed as “certain people” had done so to spread fear and division, that these people had been hatemongers.
For daring to call for equality, for asking for all to be treated equal, for daring to question why Council Leader Linda Thomas in her ward had benefited from such funding being allocated to the ward of Halliwell. The public in Bolton had been branded hatemongers.
In Bolton, we are not just known for Peter Kay and Warburtons bread, we are also now known as hatemongers for daring to question why the ruling Labour party is funding the promotion of religious worship, why that funding has seen three times more funding go to a minority faith and why it has benefited almost exclusively four wards controlled by 12 Labour Councillors. In Bolton, some wards under Labour, are more equal than others.