FOR the the first time in Wigan history there is a female double act in the mayoral chamber.
Coun Joy Birch was formally elected as as the borough’s first citizen yesterday and Leigh West councillor Myra Whiteside was named her deputy during the ceremony at Wigan Town Hall.
Colleagues paid tribute to Coun Birch, whose greatest achievement was said to be securing the refurbishment of Alexandra Park in Newtown.
The Douglas ward councillor then addressed the hall about her ambitions for the coming year.
She said: “My theme is to raise aspirations of our citizens and children in every township.
“There have been many improvements made by our members but the citizens of Wigan deserve the best and we will help them become the best.
“We would like to support the ‘can do’ ethic, which is positive, rather than a negative apathy.”
The 61-year-old also spoke of her personal life and included a request for the ceremony to be filmed for her mum and siblings in Australia.
She also spoke of how personal circumstances affected her choice to represent two charities close to her heart - Marie Curie Cancer Care and Multiple Sclerosis Society Wigan.
Coun Birch said: “These charities have not been chosen in the past. I have lost two people very close to me due to cancer and when I became Deputy Mayor I was diagnosed with breast cancer. I am now recovering after treatment.
“It shows there is hope for people with cancer.
“I also have two young family members who have MS. I want to highlight how many young people suffer from MS, as they were only in their twenties when diagnosed.”
Coun Birch’s partner, Albert Bradley, was named as the Mayor’s consort.
Members also honoured the outgoing Mayor, Michael Winstanley, who became first citizen after Tory colleague and Mayor elect Henry Cadman suffered a devastating stroke.
References were made to his jovial and light-hearted humour and his commitment to raising funds for stroke services in Wigan - including getting his chest waxed.
And Mr Winstanley said: “Last year has been a great experience and I have been to so many wonderful events.
“I had the opportunity to raise money for a worthy cause and I hope my aim to promote business in the town has been achieved.”
Council leader, Lord Peter Smith, also expressed words of thanks to both the outgoing and new mayors and revealed he declined an invitation to hear Barack Obama speak to both Houses of Parliament in London to attend the Mayor-making ceremony.
New Deputy Mayor, Coun Whiteside, added that she was honoured to assume her new role and was looking forward to being the first female Mayor from Leigh.
Coun Birch will hold her Civic Sunday service in St Edward’s Catholic Church, in Scot Lane, Newtown on Sunday May 29.
There will be a procession from Westfield Community School, Montrose Avenue, in Pemberton to the church, starting at 10am with the service, to which the Mayor has invited local schools and community leaders, beginning half an hour later.