Chamber plaudits for community projects

Chris Ready
Chris Ready

The final full council meeting before next month’s elections saw a change of format with Wigan borough’s community projects under the spotlight.

Instead of hearing from elected members, control of the floor was passed over to representatives from eight schemes boosted by the Wigan Deal.

Lord Smith described the proceedings as “inspirational” and opposition leader Coun James Grundy said he was proud to have given cross-party support to the concept of the Wigan Deal.

Chief executive Donna Hall indicated the change of format could be repeated each year to replace the traditional state of the area report.

Among the groups invited to address the chamber were neighbourhood forum Standish Voice and the Green Grass community interest company.

Councillors also heard from the town hall’s recycling campaign poster boy Adrian Speakman who spoke of his new-found fame having featured in BBC series Call the Council.

The 24-year-old’s journey to landing his dream job as a bin-man was featured in the show and he told the chamber how it was made possible through the council’s Confident Futures scheme. Adrian described how he is now asked for autographs during his morning rounds and later offered to sign something for Lord Smith, a comment which brought a round of applause from the chamber.

He said: “I can tell you that I’m really honoured to be one of your successful achievements and I want to let you know this is a fantastic council to work for.”

Through the austerity period Wigan Council has opted to fund community projects as part of the Deal scheme to help it tackle the long-term effects of budget cuts.

Coun Chris Ready, cabinet member for communities, said the borough is now benefitting from its Community Investment Fund (CIF) policy.

He added: “These people are just the tip of the iceberg in terms of community leaders we’ve got out there.

“The leader, deputy leader and chief executive made that risky decision years back to put money into CIF and no other local authority did it.

“But without us doing that we wouldn’t be here tonight so there should be a thanks for those that backed it.

“We’ve actually got more money back through CIF. It was said earlier tonight that less money doesn’t stop us doing things and I think that’s a great point to make. We’ve all got less money but we’ve embraced it.” Lord Smith said: “This has been an inspirational meeting to hear all these stories.

“It is really and truly humbling to hear the amount of things going on (around the borough).”

Leader of the opposition Coun Grundy said: “I got a fair amount of stick as an opposition member when the Deal was announced and I said, ‘I think this is a good idea’.

“But I think I’ve been proven right in agreeing with you as I think we can all agree that it has delivered better services with less money.

“It shows that instead of telling residents what to do we’ve listened to them and worked with them and this is what we can achieve, long may that continue.”

l Coun Grundy is standing for re-election in Lowton East against Stephen Darragh (Ukip), Garry Lloyd (Labour) and Harry Snape (Green).