Labour fury over county ‘Boris’ plan

Sir Ian McCartney
Sir Ian McCartney

LABOUR members are in open revolt about the so-called Devo Manc plan for an elected county Mayor.

Makerfield Constituency Labour Party (CLP) – the first of the three parties in the borough to meet – heard angry condemnation of the fact that the very first councillors and card holders knew of the radical Government proposals was the tea time television news.

They slammed the “shocking and anti-democratic” lack of consultation with Wigan ahead of the showpiece unveiling alongside council Leader Lord Smith.

And they pointed out that the borough had massively rejected a Boris-style elected Mayor as recently as just two years ago.

The party voted overwhelmingly to send a motion to the district Labour Party (now known as the Campaign Forum) calling for it to convene a mass meeting of all members to urgently discuss the decision-making process, consultation and implications for the borough.

Makerfield CLP chairman Sir Ian McCartney, the former long serving Makerfield MP, said: “The members are absolutely astonished about the way this has been handled – aghast even.

“The first most people at the CLP, members and councillors, knew about this was seeing Peter Smith sharing a platform with the Tory Chancellor on the television news that evening as they made the announcement.

“We are in favour, of course, of devolved Government for our area and co-operating to get the best possible services for the people of Makerfield.

“But there is something distinctly anti-democratic about the way this is being handled that really does ring the alarm bells.”

Sir Ian said members agreed that for such a programme to proceed, the Government should do what it had done with Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland: bring proposals forward before putting them out for a “full, frank and honest” consultation ahead.

He fears that the authority could be left little more than a parish council because the elected Mayor would assume so many existing powers.

But Leader of the council Lord Smith said Wigan would benefit from the £2bn deal.

He said: “Issues around devolution for Greater Manchester have been shared with members of the Labour Group for some time although the final details were only confirmed last week.

“The role of Mayor for Greater Manchester is a very different offer from anything previously discussed and is not to be be compared with a London-style Mayor.”