Former mayor assumes opposition leader role

Wigan has a new opposition leader as the borough Conservatives have staged a re-shuffle ahead of the next municipal year.
New Conservative duio Couns Michael Winstanley and Ray WhittinghamNew Conservative duio Couns Michael Winstanley and Ray Whittingham
New Conservative duio Couns Michael Winstanley and Ray Whittingham

The Tories increased their number in the council chamber from three to five last week, with former mayor Michael Winstanley reclaiming a seat in Orrell ward.

Coun Winstanley will now replace Lowton East’s James Grundy – who retained his seat – as the group’s leader.

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Coun Grundy will now serve as deputy leader of the opposition. He had led the opposition in the chamber for the past 12 months following Gary Wilkes’s (Independent Network) failure to get re-elected in 2015.

Coun Winstanley, the borough’s first citizen for 2010/11, told the Evening Post Coun Grundy had spoken over the weekend about the handover.

He said: “I would like to pay tribute to James who has done an excellent job in leading the Conservative group on Wigan Council over the last few years in providing an effective and credible opposition.

“I am delighted to be leading the group once again, and taking up the role that I had from 2000 until 2010 when I left the position to become Mayor.

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“We now have a strong Group on the council and I am pleased with the team that I will be leading.

“It is our intention to provide a constructive opposition to the Labour here in the borough.”

Last year the trio of Tories – Coun Grundy plus Ed and Kath Houlton – entered into a working partnership with the-then three Wigan Independent Network (WIN) councillors to form the official opposition.

With Tories now five-strong in the chamber following last week’s results, WIN has dropped to two members with Jamie Hodgkinson retaining his Atherton seat and Steve Jones claiming the Bryn seat vacated by WIN’s Don Hodgkinson.

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The Evening Post understands the two parties are in talks once again about forming a loose coalition.

Ray Whittingham provided the other Tory gain last week, ousting Standish Independents leader Gareth Fairhurst.

On election night Coun Winstanley issued a defiant message to the ruling Labour Party. He said: “We will be holding you to account, we will be looking for where you’re not delivering to the people of Wigan. Don’t rest on your laurels.

“You’ve had an easy ride for far too long, we’re going to ramp it up now.”