Shop remains as community rallies round

A community shop and support centre near Wigan which has been offering cheap food to people throughout the pandemic has been saved from closure.

Wednesday, 21st July 2021, 4:39 pm
Coun Steve Jones, right, with Anthea Caffrey, left, and Gill Williams from Bryn Support Centre, food larder and community shop, offering food parcels for members of the community

The Bryn Support Centre will reopen on August 2 following a refurbishment.

Food waste charity The Bridge At Leigh will take over the shop, offering low-cost food and mental health services at the building in Downall Green Road.

It comes after Bryn councillor Steve Jones who set up the store last year, announced he would stand down, but later rescinded his resignation.

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The independent councillor said the shop and a new community centre were part of his pledges to voters ahead of the election only nine weeks earlier.

He told the Local Democracy Reporting Service that because the shop was due to close, he would have stood for re-election with a new set of pledges.

However, he changed his mind after receiving ‘hundreds’ of messages from residents asking him to stay on as their representative despite the closure.

He was also contacted by The Bridge, who offered to take over the shop.

Coun Jones considered stepping down from his role around three years ago and took Wigan Council to court after the local authority set up a by-election.

The court ruled in the councillor’s favour, saying that he had never resigned.

The by-election was cancelled and Coun Jones was returned to office at the next ballot last May with more than 2,000 votes – around 67 per cent of the vote.

The support centre, which was set up soon after the coronavirus crisis took hold, has helped hundreds of people with food parcels and Christmas hampers.

The shop, which features a ‘neighbourhood food larder’, also ran toy appeals.

But it struggled to stay afloat after the last lockdown because some of its food suppliers which served the pub industry were forced to close due to Covid.

Coun Jones said: “We were losing £100 a day through that lockdown.”

In addition to his commitments as a councillor, Coun Jones is married and has two young children.

The councillor considered running the whole operation himself to keep costs down, but he feared he would be neglecting his family if he took this work on.

He also considered combining the shop with the new community centre set to open at The Diamond Club off Old Road, but this will now be run by the council.

Coun Jones added: “Although I regret saying I was going to step down, it’s turned out to be a positive outcome.”

The Bridge at Leigh has been based at a shop in The Avenue for three years and had a café, which has been closed during the Covid pandemic. The food waste charity also supplies food for another foodbank in Atherton.

Food services manager Catherine Roberts said the store in Bryn, which the charity supplied food for as well, served a ‘valuable purpose’ in the area.

She said: “We just didn’t want it to close. We just thought, ‘what can we do?’ People can come up and pick their own food. They can pick up a low-cost healthy bag of food at a fraction of the price of supermarkets. It’s open to everyone.

“Whether it’s lack of funds or they want to save food that’s going to landfill.”

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