MP’s fury at Wigan Council over levelling up fund

Leigh MP James Grundy accuses authority of 'spreading disinformation' regarding bid for town

Thursday, 24th June 2021, 7:00 am
James Grundy MP

A row has erupted between a borough MP and Wigan Council over the Government’s £4.8bn Levelling Up Fund.

It comes after the council confirmed bids for all three Wigan Borough constituencies would be submitted to the regeneration initiative.

The first of the three bids for the borough, which focuses on the Galleries redevelopment in Wigan has been submitted. The second and third bid, for Leigh and Ashton in Makerfield will be submitted in round two in around 12 months’ time.

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The council said initial proposals for Leigh include a green events space, a community hub, a residential offer and improved pedestrian connectivity around the town and wider area.

But Leigh MP James Grundy has accused the authority of “spreading disinformation” regarding the bid for the town.

In a letter to council leader, David Molyneux, Mr Grundy said he was “disappointed” about various social media posts from councillors and others, regarding his “lack of support” for a bid for his constituency.

Mr Grundy said: “Last week I published a statement regarding the council’s decision to postpone submitting a bid to the Levelling Up Fund for the Leigh constituency.

“Disappointingly, over the course of the weekend, there have been a series of social media posts from council representatives, who have misrepresented my position on the Levelling Up Fund.

“The council have also issued press notices that have omitted their plans to build a multi-storey car park in our town centre.

“This is why I have written to Coun Molyneux to ask him to publish the council’s Levelling Up Fund bid proposals for Leigh, and to commit to put party politics aside to work with me, local businesses, community groups and my constituents to submit proposals for the next funding round that truly deliver on our town’s priorities.”

In the letter, Mr Grundy said he had been “absolutely clear” that he wants Leigh to receive the funding and urged the council to bid for the full £20million available.

He added: “However, as the council will know, I raised my concerns about the primary focus of the bid, a multi-storey car park, when it was first presented to me, and given that we only have one opportunity to receive this funding and to get this right, I see no issue in wanting to ensure that this money was being spent on the right projects to benefit our town.”

But Coun Molyneux hit back saying that the authority had been hoping to submit a bid for both Wigan and Leigh in round one, and claimed they were “sadly unable to get the political backing that we see as essential to the success of the bid”.

He said: “Despite this initial setback, we will continue to work hard to get the funding we need to turn the vision for Leigh into a reality. The additional time will give us the opportunity to refine our bid.

“The initial proposal for Leigh builds on the Town Centre Regeneration Framework and includes a green events space, a community hub, a residential offer and improved pedestrian connectivity around the town and wider area.

“As part of these plans, we would look to consolidate parking around the town centre into one multi-storey offer to free up vital space.”

He added: “We cannot afford to miss out on this funding opportunity again and I hope our MP works with us to make it happen for the people of Leigh.”

It comes after Independent councillors in Atherton urged the authority to reconsider a decision not to submit a funding bid for a town centre.

Couns Stuart Gerrard, Jamie Hodgkinson and James Paul Watson asked the town hall to put forward the town for “much-needed” investment through the first round of the scheme. But the town hall has decided not to pursue the plans for the first round because MP support had already been secured in the Bolton West constituency for a planned programme of junction improvements between Westhoughton and Horwich.

The fund, which launched in March 2021, gives local authorities the opportunity to apply for up to £20m for each MP constituency.

To be successful the bid must support local growth and delivery of local priorities to address local and regional economic disparity.

The council said it has also been in contact with Chris Green MP to see if there is any scope for a bid in Atherton, which falls under the Bolton West constituency, with discussions said to be “progressing.”

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