Council strikes a new deal with community

Editor of the Wigan Obserevr Janet Wilson, Lord Smith and Donna Hall
Editor of the Wigan Obserevr Janet Wilson, Lord Smith and Donna Hall

GRASSROOT schemes are to be given a £2m boost by the council.

As part of the pioneering Wigan Deal, town hall chiefs hope residents will help tackle the effects of severe budget cuts by volunteering.

Despite the authority’s dwindling resources, the multi-million pound Community Investment Fund (CIF) has been given priority for a second year.

And the charities, groups and social enterprises - which the council hopes more residents will get involved in - are now encouraged to apply for part of the funding.

Council leader Lord Smith said: “When we first opened the CIF last year, the response from residents was fantastic.

“We were able to fund 12 wonderful projects that are already making a big difference in our communities addressing some of the most serious social issues we face.

“These groups are better placed than the council to tackle such issues so it makes sense for us to seek community-based solutions.

“We simply can’t do what we used to do – or do things in the way we used to do them.

“It’s about achieving our goals – and the goals of our residents – in new ways.”

The council has pledged to freeze council tax, asking for an “informal contract” with residents to help save money in the long term.

This Wigan Deal, launched this week, includes calling for volunteers in community projects, helping to increase recycling rates and using council online services.

A dozen projects were aided by the original CIF money last year in the borough, chosen from more than 100 applications.

They included a community farm, a music co-operative and a homeless charity given money to pay for ideas to address some of Wigan’s most pressing social issues.

Lord Smith, who recently cited the CIF scheme as one of his proudest achievements in his long career in local government, added: “It’s not been easy to find the funding. Careful money management and prudent financial planning has meant we’re able to invest £4m (over two years) in our communities. The council is facing huge cuts from central government.

“We will have to cut £105.8m by the end of 2016/17, a total reduction of more than 30 per cent of our budget.

“This is one of the largest cuts faced by any local authority in the country. But this is a long-term investment and if we can build strong community projects we will save money in the future.”

Applications for the fund will open later this year.

More information about the Wigan Deal is available at and in this week’s Wigan Observer ...