Phone box axe demands

Coun Lol Hunt and Coun Michael McLoughlin at one of the vandalised phone boxes in Swinley
Coun Lol Hunt and Coun Michael McLoughlin at one of the vandalised phone boxes in Swinley

Councillors are calling for the removal of phone boxes which they say have become the haunt of criminals and a magnet for vandalism.

Wigan Central representatives Coun Michael McLoughlin and Coun Lol Hunt are asking BT to take away several traditional payphones in Swinley amid fears they are being used for drug selling.

The boxes include the one at the junction of Standishgate and Dicconson Terrace and another on Swinley Road.

Concerns have also been raised that the boxes attract anti-social behaviour, with the Standishgate one having every panel smashed in recent times, and are not needed at a time when almost everyone has a mobile phone.

Coun McLoughlin said: “I think the main advantage of making a call from a phone box is that it can’t be traced, which suits those involved in something nefarious.

“There used to be a public call box in a hotel and they took it out because people who were regarded as undesirables were coming in.

“We’ve found vodka and whisky bottles in the phone boxes and they can’t be making much money out of them.

“I just think they have had their day. When I was growing up they were invaluable but the world has changed.”

Coun McLoughlin says he wrote to BT several years ago about issues caused by the phone boxes in Swinley.

He also expressed disappointment that the telecoms giant did not remove any of the ones in his ward in its last cull of boxes which were rarely or never used in the borough.

A total of 33 payphones were listed for removal under plans drawn up last November after research showed 12 of them had not been used at all in the previous 12 months.

BT has promised to fix the damage caused to the Dicconson Terrace phone box but said removing them was not a complete solution.

A spokesman said: “We will repair any damage to the payphones.

“Removing them will not stop people behaving anti-socially, the problems will just move elsewhere. Anti-social behaviour is a matter for the police.”

Damage to any payphone can be reported by calling BT on freephone number 0800 661 610 Monday to Friday during working hours.