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Manchester Evening News
Manchester Evening News
Joseph Timan, Local Democracy Reporter

Communities councillor shared a far-right group's post calling for a ban on halal foods in schools

The Labour councillor charged with promoting community cohesion in Bolton has defended her decision to share a social media post by Britain First by saying she had never heard of the far-right group.

Coun Anna-Marie Watters has now deleted the post from January 14 calling for a "total ban" on halal food in schools.

It is understood that the post, which linked to the Britain First website, provoked a number of complaints, one of which is being investigated by the local Labour group.

Coun Watters says she did not know the nature of the organisation behind the post when she shared it on her personal Facebook account.

Coun Watters is the shadow cabinet member for "Stronger Communities" and was responsible for the communities portfolio at Bolton Council until Labour lost power in May (Copyright Unknown)

The Westhoughton representative, who is the shadow cabinet member for "Stronger Communities", was responsible for the communities portfolio at Bolton Council until Labour lost power in May.

She said: "Let's face it - there are that many organisations that set themselves up as political parties. It's impossible to divulge into every single one of them. We have four 'First' groups in Bolton. None of them are far-right groups as far as I'm aware.

"People have turned this into something that it isn't. I've got many, many Asian friends and none of them have made any comments about that post.

"That post had been there for nearly three weeks. Had someone said, 'were you aware of Britain First', I would have removed that post without any hesitation whatsoever."

Coun Watters was asked whether she supports the message of the post and would want halal food to be banned from schools.

She said: "It wasn't about halal food, it was purely about animal welfare. I think people should be given a choice. I don't have any issue with halal food.

"There's nothing wrong about having conversations about this topic. It doesn't make you a racist. I just care about the treatment of animals."

Labour group chief whip, Coun Hamid Khurram, confirmed that he is investigating the matter.

He said: "The Labour Party has its own procedures for disciplinary action. I can confirm there has been a complaint made against her about that post. I'm dealing with it currently according to our procedure.

"We have to investigate the matter first. We have to see what she has to say. Only then, can I recommend anything.

"I want to make clear that the Labour Party has zero tolerance for any sort of racism."

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