A Bolton Labour councillor is under fire for comments about a transgender Conservative opponent.

Labour councillor Guy Harkin, who represents the Crompton ward, served as the city’s Mayor from 2012-13.

But Cllr Harkin is facing potential action after clashing with Conservative opponent Zoë Kirk-Robinson, who is transgender, during a council session on pensions.

Speaking to PinkNews, Ms Kirk-Robinson recalled: “During this rant, he repeatedly misgendered me, referring to me as ‘he’ and ‘him’ numerous times; which stunned the room into silence.

“The tirade was clearly meant to not just insult but injure; and I can tell you he did, sadly, hit the mark on that one.”

In a vlog, she added: “It hurt a lot… the guy had no reason to suggest I was male, he’s never met me as a male, I transitioned over ten years ago. I’ve lived in Bolton eight years… he never met me before I transitioned.”

Speaking to PinkNews, Mr Harkin said: “I was utterly unaware of this slip of the tongue until it was pointed out to me the day after the meeting.

“I offered immediately to apologise as there is not a homophobic or any kind of phobic bone in my body.”

Mr Harkin, who said one of his oldest friends is trans author Roz Kaveney, added: “I am told I used ‘he’ instead of the appropriate ‘she’ twice, not repeatedly, or someone would surely have raised a point of order – and I would have apologised there and then.”

But Ms Kirk-Robinson said: “Bolton has a problem with transphobia and homophobia.

“We have very high levels of hate crime; which prompted Bolton Pride to be set up last year, to raise awareness of the problem and work to address it.

“When Councillors feel safe and secure enough to engage in transphobia as a means to attack their rivals, it spurs on the bigots in the town.

“They see a member of the highest public forum in the area attacking people for their gender identity, and they feel it’s okay to do it as well… it’s like a vicious cycle.”

Ms Kirk-Robinson added that she has reported the comments, and Bolton Council is taking the allegations “seriously”.