Charity changes backwards step

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A FORMER mayor has hit out at changes to the Wigan Mayor’s Charity Appeal because of Government cuts.

Aspull councillor John Hilton described a move to end external fund-raising because the council is withdrawing officer clerical support to save costs as a “backwards step.”

Town hall chiefs have decided instead to award the charity an annual £10,000 grant claiming the plan will save £5,000 overall.

Mayor of Wigan between 2004 and 2005, Coun Hilton led one of the most successful appeals ever, raising more than £90,000 for the special care baby unit at Wigan Infirmary. He was an abandoned baby himself, found in a railway station waiting room.

Much of the cash was raised with sponsorship of an epic sponsored walk from the station in Oldham to the hospital on Wigan Lane.

But he also rounded on Wigan Independent Network (WIN) Leader Coun Gary Wilkes who dismissed the Mayor’s Charity as “mainly a political Labour Party initiative” which ruling Labour councillors, rather than taxpayers, should fund.

But Coun Hilton pointed out that the biggest sponsor of his record-breaking appeal was major Tory donor and Latics chairman Dave Whelan.

He said he was saddened that the charity appeal will no longer organise fund-raising events because of the close contact it generated between the mayor and the borough public.

But he accepted the reasoning behind it.

Coun Hilton still raises money for the special care baby unit by giving talks about his rags-to-first-citizen story from which he donates any fee. He said: “There was a good committee around the mayor organising different events in support of the appeal and I hope their services are not lost.

“I understand because of the financial constraints we are under that this will save money over all but I still think it is a backwards step.

“The number of people I met during fund-raising for my appeal was just unbelievable and I think it will be a great shame if that is denied to other Wigan Mayors from now on.

“However, for the leader of the Opposition Coun Wilkes to say that the Mayors Charity is a Labour political event is the biggest load of rubbish I have ever heard from Coun Wilkes. One of the biggest fund-raisers for my appeal when I was the Mayor was one of the biggest Tories in Wigan.

“The good people of Wigan rallied around my charity from whatever political party they were members of, or not, to raise £91,000, which was a fantastic effort and I will not have Coun Wilkes cheapening this achievement.

“They will be upset and they have every right to be because they didn’t give this cash for political reasons.”