By-election is called

Cllr Barbara Bourne
Cllr Barbara Bourne

A WIGAN community is gearing up for a by-election forced by opposition politicians.

Community Action Party leader and deputy Peter Franzen and Michael Moulding controversially triggered the hustings this week by providing their signatures to a town hall mandate setting the democratic process in motion.

The Pemberton seat became available following the death of Labour’s Coun Barbara Bourne last month.

But CAP has yet to declare whether it will stand or who would represent it despite much speculation that Mr Franzen, a former chief of the opposition on the local authority, could be attempting a town hall come-back.

And it has now been attacked by ruling Labour for acting in undue haste so soon after the funeral service.

The only candidates to have come forward to date - deadline for nominations is March 6 - is UKIP’s Alan Freeman.

He is now pledging to fight the seat on a campaign including abolishing the Cabinet system at the council and returning all members to the standard £11,600 back-bench allowance, abandoning the council’s Borough Life publication and reducing ward representation from three councillors to just two. UKIP will also fight to abolish hospital car parking charges for visitors and patients.

Because there are no council polls scheduled in 2013, the by-election will be the only hustings this year.

In a statement, Mr Franzen said he had called the by-election to “expose” the Wigan Labour Party for complicity in a Government cuts programme.”

He said: “From April the people in the Pemberton ward are to be used as guinea pigs because Wigan Labour have agreed to bring forward the Coalition government cuts originally planned for October.

“They will be subject to the Tory’s Universal Credit, the Bedroom Tax, cuts in sickness and disability benefits and cuts in Council Tax Benefit support. This is on top of a 5.6 per cent rent increase and a council tax increase for everyone because Wigan Labour turned down a government grant to freeze council tax.

“The cuts in support and increases in tax and rents have been brought forward, approved and implemented by Wigan Labour. The Community Action Party are opposed to these punitive cuts and massive council tax and rent increases which will have a devastating impact on the people of Pemberton ward.”

But Labour council leader Lord Smith said: “It is typical of CAP to call the by-election while most decent people are still grieving over the loss of Barbara Bourne, a well-regarded local councillor. From their hysterical tone, CAP have learned nothing after their rejection by electors throughout the borough.

“Wigan’s Labour Council will continue to do its best to defend local people and services against the government’s cuts. CAP offer nothing but empty promises which they know they can’t fulfil.”

Wigan Conservative Federation chairman Michael Winstanley said: “The Labour Party and Community Action always complain about cuts but never tell local people about how they would tackle the financial mess that this country faced after 13 years of Labour mismanagement.

“This is also an opportunity for people to have their say on the removal of weekly bin collections, the proposed increase in Council Tax and the decision to close Orrell Tip which many people in the area used.”

Standish Independent Coun Gareth Fairhurst said: “It will be interesting that the people of Pemberton will have a chance to voice whether they like the idea that council are introducing universal credits at least six months earlier than needed.

“I cannot see any reason why Labour want to work with the Government on this matter and now the residents of Pemberton will be able to judge Labour.”