Wigan Council’s newly-appointed leader has pledged to listen as he praised his predecessor’s work putting the borough on economic track.
Coun David Molyneux, who takes over the town hall’s top political office after Lord Peter Smith’s 27-year stint in the role, said Wigan was one of the area’s best-performing councils.
Related: End of an era for Lord Smith and Wigan Council
Coun Molyneux, who has represented Ince ward since 1982, says his eight-year spell as deputy leader means he has already been heavily involved in many of the borough’s most important upcoming projects.
He said his top priorities were improving the lot of young Wiganers and ensuring economic prosperity, particularly with central government withdrawal funding for councils from 2020.
He paid fulsome tribute to Lord Smith’s work as leader and said his time in charge would see both continuity and change.
Coun Molyneux, who will be formally appointed on Wednesday May 23 at the full council meeting, said: “It really is a privilege to be selected to be the leader. It is difficult to follow someone who has been such a success and leading light in local government as Lord Smith.
“I’ve been around long enough to see how things have developed and changed and hopefully that will stand me in good stead.
“We have certainly been successful as a council and that is down to his leadership vision. A lot of things will remain the same but I might have a different view on some things as well.
“I’m very passionate about giving young people the best opportunities, whether that’s through Sure Start, education or jobs.
“We’ve also got to provide social care, which is crucial as our population gets older, and the other facilities people expect from a council.
“I’ve been quite involved in a lot of major projects already. We’re going to get the A49 link road under way. We’ve been promising it and we’re now in a position to deliver it. People will see it start to take shape this year.
“The first HS2 trains will arrive in Wigan in 2026 which is a big statement for us and a boost to our connectivity. We’re in a great geographical position and there’s also a lot of interest in the M6 corridor.
“With The Galleries we want to make sure the town centre remains vibrant and we want to boost the night-time economy, whether that’s through restaurants, a cinema or other forms of entertainment. We also want housing in the town centre.”
Coun Molyneux starts work soon after a sticky night at the local election polls for the dominant Labour party and he has pledged to build bridges to council sceptics.
He said: “We have to listen to communities’ needs and requirements. I don’t want any part of this borough to feel disenfranchised.
“We always need to be aware it’s a privilege to represent the communities who elect us.
“I’m prepared to listen to anyone with decent ideas to move Wigan forward. It’s not a point scoring game, it’s about representing the borough and its people.”
Coun Keith Cunliffe, portfolio holder for adult social care, will serve as deputy and the full cabinet, which currently has one post to be filled, will be unveiled on May 23.