Council hits back in forces hub row

Wigan Market Hall, where the new hub will be set up
Wigan Market Hall, where the new hub will be set up

Wigan Council has publicly hit back at social media criticism questioning its commitment to a new armed forces hub for the borough.

The local authority responded on Facebook after Paul Maiden, who acted as independent representative Coun Bob Brierley’s agent at the last general election, asked why there had been so little progress on the social network page he runs.

Mr Maiden said veterans are unhappy the hub is still so far from completion more than two years after the initial funding pledges were made.

Coun Brierley, who represents Hindley Green ward, has also written to the local authority asking if veterans can meet deputy leader Coun David Molyneux and director for economy and environment Karl Battersby.

Both Mr Maiden and Coun Brierley say the veterans they have spoken to are also concerned about the armed forces hub being in the market hall and Mr Maiden says he has also spoken to traders uncertain about the move.

Wigan Council has now refuted some of the funding claims made and assured residents it is committed to the project, saying money is being spent both on the hub and on other schemes helping those who serve on the front line.

Coun Molyneux said: “These allegations are completely unfounded, politically motivated and do not demonstrate any genuine concern for our veterans.

“Wigan Council is fully committed to creating an armed forces hub which will benefit the serving and veteran community of Wigan borough.

“At a time when other councils are cutting back services we have committed £500,000 to the hub and every penny from this and funding from the Ministry of Defence (MoD) will be invested in our veterans.

“Our work with veterans and serving armed forces members is a key priority and we are working across the borough to support them.”

Mr Maiden immediately hit back on Facebook, thanking the council for its message which he said would just draw more attention to the matter.

He said: “The reason projects don’t get off the ground is because there’s no money. That’s not the case here and there’s no excuse for this as far as I can see.”

The MoD awarded the local authority £391,000 of which £100,000 is the contribution towards the armed forces hub.

The rest is for the two-year programme 4 Our Forces and involves partner organisations getting money to deliver services in the borough.

The town hall has also promised to consult veterans extensively on what should be in the new hub but says it is currently working through the technical details. It also said its £500,000 is pledged but has not yet been spent.

It is not the first time ex-service personnel have become frustrated at the slow pace of work on the hub, with former Paratrooper Royston Brett earlier this year saying action was needed quickly.