THE finances and future of Haigh Hall sparked heated debate among councillors at the latest meeting of the full council in the town hall chambers.
Independent Coun Bob Brierley accused council chiefs and Wigan Leisure and Culture Trust of squandering money made by the facilities at the jewel in the town’s crown.
Proposing a motion for all profits made at Haigh Hall to be put back into the site, the Hindley Green representative said that funds should be “put back to the people of Wigan”.
But Coun Brierley received a stern rebuttal from cabinet member for leisure and culture, Coun Chris Ready, who said many of the facilities at the Haigh Hall site are heavily subsidised and do not turn a profit.
He said: “We all admire Bob’s passion for Haigh Hall, we sincerely do. But what you are asking for is not practical for a number of reasons.
“If we were to separate off budgets in the same way and direct funds back into just the services that can make a profit, the council would be forced to close libraries, children’s centres and many more services which our residents rely on everyday.”
Coun Brierley had stated that the finances of Haigh Hall should be made available by WLCT and even offered to take on the running of the site by himself, free of charge.
He said: “Everything that is generated from Haigh Hall, including the golf course, car parks, cafe and Manor house, should be put back into Haigh Hall.
“I have taken pictures inside the Manor house, one shows a window that looks like it has been neglected for ten years and that just so happens to be how long WLCT have been in charge.
“They don’t reinvest the money and that’s a disgrace.”
Speaking on the motion, Lord Peter Smith said that the council had plans for Haigh Hall but that like every other council service, its facilities have been subject to budget cuts. He said: “Coun Brierley said himself that he has no idea about the figures and as Coun Ready explained, Haigh Hall is heavily subsidised.”
Coun Ready added: “I am sure we all want Haigh Hall to be a success and flourish for all the residents of the borough and I know from members who contact me on a regular basis their passion for our country park.”
The motion was rejected but opposition councillors maintained their request for WLCT to publish its budgets for public scrutiny.