Fury as authorities snub community meeting invite

Jubilee Park in Ashton
Jubilee Park in Ashton

MEMBERS of a Wigan community group have branded the police’s decision not to attend a public meeting “an utter disgrace.”

The Ashton Residents’ Association will meet later this month to discuss ongoing anti-social behaviour problems in the area.

But both Greater Manchester Police and Wigan Council officials have declined invitations to attend.

Group chairman Michael Moulding has lodged a formal complaint to chief constable Sir Peter Fahy and commissioner Tony Lloyd.

He said: “The residents of Ashton have had to endure many years of serious ASB and crime, especially around the communities surrounding Jubilee Park and the town centre – which at its peak last year nearly resulted in a riot.

“Despite some improvements, there are very serious concerns about the lack of policing and lack of enforcement of section 30 dispersal orders.”

Wigan West NPT responded to the invitation by explaining that a police led public meeting was held late last year.

It added: “We already have in place face to face surgeries for members of the community to make representations to our staff. We do not believe another meeting is now required. We are working with our partners at this time to reassure the local community and prevent further ASB taking place.

“We will be in the near future releasing a joint services message to all parties concerned and will endeavour to keep you updated accordingly.”

Mr Moulding called the response “an utter disgrace that brings shame on the organisation.”

Representatives from Wigan Council and Wigan Leisure Culture Trust have informed the group they will be unable to attend due to neutrality “purdah” regulations imposed during local election periods.

But Mr Moulding also slammed that decision as the residents’ group is a “non-political organisation”.

He added “Political debate will not be tolerated or allowed and strict rules will apply at the meeting.”

A combined authority response meant emergency measures were imposed in Ashton – including dispersal orders - after outbreaks of violence and ASB in late 2013.

The orders – which allow officers to move on groups of two or more – were brought in for a six month period, due to run out next month.

Mr Moulding added: “It is imperative these orders are retained and extended to cover Ashton town centre.”