Budget issues spark debate

Councillor David Molyneux
Councillor David Molyneux

FOR the second year in a row Wigan’s councillors clashed at the budget meeting over how much cash the local authority needs to keep in reserve.

Deputy leader Coun David Molyneux spoke in support of the council’s budget plan which includes a council tax freeze, an extension of the Community Investment Fund and a continuation of the Wigan Deal.

We will have had to cope with £100m in cuts and there will be more to follow

Deputy leader Coun David Molyneux

He said: “We are doing the right things for the people of this borough, it is our commitment to help out the most vulnerable in our communities.

“We will have had to cope with £100m in cuts and there will be more to follow.”

But opposition leader Coun Gary Wilkes, of the Wigan Independent Network (WIN), proposed a number of measures which he suggested could further save the council funds.

These included scrapping Borough Life magazine, reducing the number of councillors in each ward from three to two and expanding free parking measures to encourage shoppers.

Coun Wilkes also put forward a plan to take a one-off payment of £5m from financial reserves to help out satellite towns Ashton, Atherton, Hindley, Standish and Tyldesley in response to the council’s plans to improve Wigan and Leigh town centres.

He said: “We have got a massive amount in reserve. I am not being negative about the budget, I support it. I am suggesting improvements.

“Ashton, our third largest town, is decaying in front of our eyes. People in the street want to see equality and investments in our smaller town centres.”

Heated exchanges took place across the chamber as Labour members disputed claims from opposition councillors that £90m was being held in reserve.

Coun Molyneux said the council has invested in Wigan and Leigh town centres as a priority but was not in a financial position to invest in every town.

He said: “There will be times when we need to spend money but we also need reserves.”

The main budget proposal was approved with a majority vote and no amendments.