A Bury councillor has sparked controversy by criticising a knitting campaign which provides hats to troops in Afghanistan.

Labour councillor Joanne Columbine was accused of “political point-scoring” when she took a swipe at the Wel Hats campaign, which is run by Conservative councillors in Welwyn Hatfield, Hertfordshire, and local Conservative MP Grant Shapps.

Campaign organiser Jonny Ball said Cllr Columbine, who represents Ramsbottom, sent him an e-mail “out of the blue” criticising the campaign because it is linked to the government.

Cllr Columbine wrote: “Knitted hats aren't going to help those who need support – good public services would do that.

“Ironic then that your organisation is associated with a government that is systematically forcing hardworking families into poverty, and then removing the support systems that they need to live with dignity.”

Residents and local businesses in the area have been involved and helped to knit hats, which were then sent to servicemen and women.

Mr Ball, who served in Afghanistan in 2012, says friends who are on their last tour of the country have been “saddened” to hear of Cllr Columbine’s comments.

He said: “We’ve had people young and old knit, from all sections of our community, backed by our local paper and backed by people from all political colours.

“It is therefore doubly sad, as someone who received a hat myself whilst serving out there, that this lady has used this charitable effort to attack her political foes.

"Is this not what turns people off of politics in the first place? Our campaign has brought people together, where she has sought to divide, and this simply isn’t acceptable.

“What this knitting campaign has shown us, is that community spirit is alive and well, and the dozens of thank you letters from Helmand reflect the power of this morale boosting effort.”

Mr Ball said he did not initially know that the writer was a Labour councillor, as she did not declare this in her e-mail, but discovered it after searching her email address on the internet.

The campaign has seen 3,000 hats knitted for troops, and they have received around 50 letters from Helmand in appreciation of their efforts.

Mr Ball said knows how the scheme can benefit troops as he received a hat himself while serving in Afghanistan, which influenced the formation of the campaign.

He added: “It all started with my aunt knitting a hat for me during a very cold winter tour of Afghanistan and soon developed into something much larger as my aunt and her WI friends sent out more and more hats for the boys and girls.

“By the end of the tour, my entire Patrol Base had warm heads, thanks to the kindness of others, and letters were sent back and forth between home and Helmand.”

Cllr Columbine refused to comment.