The foundations are crumbling’: Wigan Council boss questioned over financial position and ability to deliver Galleries project

Wigan’s council leader was told that he should be “ashamed” after questions were raised over “debts of £600m” and the authority’s ability to fund the massive Galleries redevelopment.

Coun David Molyneux came under fire during the full council meeting at Wigan Town Hall this week after a Capital Programme report revealed the authority had a capital financing requirement (CFR) of £594m.

The CFR measures the council’s underlining need to borrow for future projects.

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Coun Steve Jones shared his "disappointment” with this news, stating that this number has tripled over the last few years.

An artist's impression of part of the Galleries25 project

“We are borrowing over £600m but we have heard nothing about this today,” he told the chamber.

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“The very foundations of this council are crumbling. It is about time this council took responsibility.

“You say you’re the best council in the country. I’ll give you an accolade, you’re probably the number one council for borrowing.”

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Coun Bob Brierley backed his fellow independent in the chamber by adding: “You should be ashamed, councillor Molyneux.”

These claims were refuted by the lleader who said the authority’s plans were “financially sustainable”.

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Coun Nazia Rehman, cabinet member for finance, resources and transformation, went on to assure the chamber that these finances were fully credited. She explained the council’s financial position “has never been in question2.

One of the projects in question was the Galleries redevelopment in the town centre. There has been rumblings over whether the council could still afford to do this.

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This prompted a question from Coun Stuart Gerrad, who said: “Due to the increasing cost of building materials would the leader consider a moratorium on the Galleries25 project whilst other avenues could be explored.”

He wanted to know whether the money could be better spent elsewhere – in more vital sectors such as children’s services, which recently received a “requires improvement” from Ofsted.

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Coun Molyneux maintained the council’s position to complete the multi-million pound redevelopment as promised. Work on the Galleries project, which would see a hotel, 464 homes and a multimedia centre with a cinema, 10-lane bowling alley and indoor mini-golf as well as new market hall with stalls, shops and offices, is now underway according to the council.

The site where the old shopping centre used to be is currently being demolished as part of the project’s first phase.