Mobility service's sad demise

The Leigh store only enjoyed a makeover and re-opening two years ago
The Leigh store only enjoyed a makeover and re-opening two years ago

A charity service helping disabled and elderly people in the borough has folded after more than 30 years in operation.

Shopmobility, which had branches at Mesnes Terrace in Wigan and Gas Street in Leigh, has provided borough residents with mobility scooters and wheelchairs since 1986. Management of the charity, which was propped up by a £100,000 annual council grant until 2011, have decided to pull the plug following increasing financial strains on the service.

Trustees announced the closure on the branch’s website, explaining that the service has been forced to cease trading in Wigan and Leigh as the funding available to “secure its continuation” no longer exists.

The notice added: “Since that time the dedicated staff and volunteers have worked to raise additional funds by means of operating two retail outlets, establishing cafes in their offices, using eBay to sell specific items, marketing more aids and adaptations to the public and working long hours in the two offices.”

Shopmobility trustees said that staff have been working for lower rates of pay than when the scheme was council-led, but that this has not counteracted the effect of plummeting sales, inflation and impending increases to pension costs.

The trustee message added: “Expenditure is exceeding income, with no realistic prospect of this trend reversing. It is therefore a great disappointment for the many users of the service to learn that it will be closed from 15th January 2018. The remaining funds in the charity should enable it to close via a Creditors Voluntary Liquidation, which will ensure that staff salaries, notice and redundancy monies are paid out. With the realisation of the assets of the company along with remaining funds all outstanding debts should be cleared.”

Yvonne Fovargue, Makerfield MP, said: “The closure of Shopmobility will have a devastating impact on many people who have relied on the service for many years and it is a lifeline for those who face mobility issues.

“In an era of government enforced austerity, Shopmobility schemes across the county are closing and I fear that many more face a similar fate as the squeeze on local authority budgets continue. Austerity is a political choice and this Government is prepared to let the poorest in our society bear the brunt of their cuts."