Altered lives and uncertainty in Wigan responses to Big Conversation
Hundreds of people from the borough took part in our survey asking how the events of 2020 have affected them and their thoughts on what has happened and how society should go forward.
The Wigan results reveal considerable uncertainty over what residents should be doing to protect themselves from coronavirus and how the borough should be responding to the ongoing challenges.
Many respondents said they were comfortable with returning to public spaces but equally a large number were worried about doing so.
Residents think the Covid-19 difficulties are far from over, with widespread worries about a second wave, and there is considerable scepticism about some of the national measures put in place to curb the virus.
In some ways this is perhaps hardly surprising since Wigan remains subject to Greater Manchester-wide lockdown restrictions due to the city-region’s high case numbers and the North West remains something of a Covid-19 hotspot.
The survey also lays bare the scale of the task ahead of town centres as business and the economy tries to recover from the months of lockdown.
However, there is also support for Wigan pulling together in response to the crisis, with residents speaking of the importance of families, communities and backing local businesses.
The pandemic has clearly reduced footfall in the borough’s town centres.
Almost one in three respondents said they were visiting their nearest urban centre “a lot less”, and those who had cut down trips to the high street accounted for more than half the replies.
And a lot of Wiganers believed they had adapted well to spending more time online.
Wiganers said that being able to visit family was important to them, with a massive 80 per cent of respondents classing that as significant.
Two-thirds also said eating at cafes and restaurants was important to them, in what could be good news for the beleaguered hospitality sector, while visiting beaches or green spaces and taking breaks also scored highly.
But while many residents said they felt comfortable going to see their relatives or going to sports or exercise classes there are still worries about participating in many aspects of everyday life.
Wiganers were split on whether or not they felt comfortable going out to eat or drink while more they half said they were either uncomfortable or very uncomfortable attending venues such as cinemas, theatre or places where live music is played.
And there is also deep uncertainty about children going back to school, with the biggest response to whether or not people were happy with this being those who didn’t know or weren’t sure.
Taking public transport is also still thought to be highly risky, with a whopping 41 per cent of respondents describing themselves as very uncomfortable with getting on buses, trains or other methods of getting from A to B.
There is a strong feeling in the borough that there are more problems to come, with 56 per cent of respondents describing themselves as “very concerned” about a second wave of coronavirus.
And the controversial ‘rule of six’ which prevents large groups getting together was panned by residents in the survey, with a massive 80 per cent of those replying believing the measure was either ineffective or wholly ineffective.
A lot of Wiganers said they have cut back on personal spending but also expressed a desire to support local businesses more.
The pandemic also seems to have built support for people spending less time commuting and more time in the areas where they live, with fairly large numbers of respondents wanting a better work-life balance, more working from home and improved provision for cycling and walking while reducing the amount of car journeys being taken.
However, Wiganers also strongly backed projects such as the Wigan Pier development, with almost 75 per cent of replies suggesting this was a good thing.
Residents also most wanted to see more spending on the borough’s hospitals, on the emergency services and on support for local businesses.