Fears over delays to new prosperity fund

David Molyneux
David Molyneux

A senior councillor has urged the government to speed up a proposed “shared prosperity fund” to replace the millions spent in Wigan and Leigh by European funding.

Coun David Molyneux, the council’s deputy leader, is anxious that, with 15 months until Brexit, the government’s new sovereign fund to boost redevelopment is barely out of the starting gates.

The European Regional Development Fund supported the £14.2m south Wigan and Ince economic development zone, retail and leisure developments at Wigan Pier and the likes of a new business park at Hindley Green.

And the now-defunct Rechar fund, redirecting aid to former coalfield communities, has been behind several town centre regeneration efforts in Wigan, Ashton, Leigh and Golborne over the years.

European Social Fund allocations have backed initiatives such as Learndirect and Work Solutions, offering education, training and employment opportunities borough-wide.

But Coun Molyneux is concerned that, with access to these funds soon to disappear, little progress was being made on the proposed alternative.

He told a full council meeting: “In 15 months time these funds will disappear for good and there is no plan, apart from what has been stated in the Conservative Party manifesto.”

Coun Molyneux said that a commitment to regional funding allocations was vital as there was a “widespread disparity between London and the south-east and areas like ours in the North West and Scotland.”

His motion to write to Chancellor Philip Hammond and the Department of Communities and Local Government to highlight Wigan Council concerns was passed by fellow councillors.

Coun Michael Winstanley, Tory group leader, who campaigned in favour of Brexit, said: “It is only right that these decisions are made in this country.”

He told the meeting that Wigan now had a “great opportunity” as part of the devolved Manchester authorities to formulate a strong case for future investment.

Coun James Grundy, who represents Lowton East ward, added: “The money we get from Europe is in fact taxpayers’ money.”