Devo Manc backlash rally

Campaigners calling for a referendum on the Devo Manc deal were present around towns in Greater Manchester on Saturday, from left, Will Patterson, Joe Taylor, Hazel Duffy and Andy Moorhouse, pictured at Market Place, Wigan Town centre
Campaigners calling for a referendum on the Devo Manc deal were present around towns in Greater Manchester on Saturday, from left, Will Patterson, Joe Taylor, Hazel Duffy and Andy Moorhouse, pictured at Market Place, Wigan Town centre
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CAMPAIGNERS took to the streets of Wigan town centre at the weekend calling for a referendum on the Devo Manc plans.

The rally came days after one of the borough’s MPs hit out at “double standards” on plans to install a mayor without any form of public debate.

Devolution for Greater Manchester - dubbed Devo Manc - was announced late last year by Chancellor George Osborne.

It has been hailed as handing greater independence to the region enabling control over a range of budgets.

The deal includes creating Greater Manchester’s first directly elected mayor, with an interim mayor put in place in the meantime.

Elections were scheduled to take place before 2017 but Wigan MP Lisa Nandy has criticised that the process may now be delayed.

Ms Nandy said: “This Government has shown utter contempt for the people of Greater Manchester by imposing a Mayor without any consultation or public debate.

“Ministers talk a good game about devolving power but they don’t trust the people to decide who they want to represent them.

“When I challenged the deputy Prime Minister, Nick Clegg refused to give the public a clear timetable so we can choose for ourselves who runs our public services.

“It leaves open the possibility that this appointed Mayor could run Greater Manchester without any time limit.

“This Government has shown their double-standards by talking about their commitment to devolution and democracy whilst engaging in the worst kind of backroom politics.”

Wigan Council leader Lord Smith is a frontrunner for the interim mayor role as he is current chair of the Greater Manchester combined authority.

It is understood the GM Mayor would require backing from local authorities and would not be able to make independent decisions.

Rally organiser Stephen Hall said the public deserve a say. He said: “The fact they want to deny us having any say whatsoever shows nothing but contempt for the views of the people is simply unacceptable.”

Wigan’s UKIP branch has shown its support for a referendum. Chair Maureen McCoy said: “The present imposition of the plans is unacceptable to a democratic organisation such as UKIP. We have agreed with the sentiments of the Wigan campaign group and a Greater Manchester wide referendum should be held on this subject.”