Row breaks out between Wigan Council leader and Leigh MP over £11.4m bid for Levelling Up funding
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The Wigan and Makerfield bids to the Government’s Levelling Up fund received MP priority support from Lisa Nandy and Yvonne Fovargue.
But Conservative MP James Grundy has opted not to provide his priority support for the Leigh town centre bid.
Instead, it has been submitted with the support of Wigan Council, along with a range of local organisations and individuals, including businesses, voluntary organisations, schools, colleges, public bodies, Greater Manchester bodies and ward councillors.
Council leader Coun David Molyneux said: “We are disappointed that we have not been able to secure the support of the MP for Leigh, James Grundy.
“The council has worked extremely closely with Mr Grundy throughout recent months, with significant progress made regarding the bid’s details and the rationale behind all of the decisions discussed.
“Having been given indications throughout this process that priority support was likely to be agreed, the move away from this position during the final stages has been extremely frustrating.
“Given the significant stakeholder support for the bid and the uncertainty around further LUF rounds, we believe the decision to press ahead is the right one for the Leigh community.
“It is important to note that LUF submissions require bidders to meet strict requirements and we firmly believe our proposals across all three bids find the right balance between ambition and achievability.”
But Mr Grundy said he was not happy with the plans put forward for Leigh by the council.
He said: “I am disappointed at the partial and misleading account of events put forward by Wigan Council. Throughout this process I was clear that the Leigh bid should be for the full £20m allocated to Leigh as priority one status Levelling Up funding by the Government. This is, after all, how the bid for the town of Wigan has been treated by the council. I only ask for equal treatment for Leigh.
"Toward the end of the process, in the last few weeks, the council dropped a major component of the bid for a multi-million pound business centre in Leigh. As a result, the consultation put out by the council on the proposals, for just £10-12m of the £20m, only received 42 per cent support from the public of Leigh for their plans. No other options were put forward by the council for the remaining £8-10m. There are multiple ways this remaining £8m could be spent in Leigh and that funding is desperately needed.
"I could not support a Wigan Council Levelling Up Fund proposal opposed by nearly 60 per cent of Leigh residents, and for only about half the money Leigh is entitled to. The current bid must be improved to utilise the full £20m in an effective manner and then I will give it my support, but certainly not before.
"The attitude of Wigan Council towards the Levelling Up fund bid for Leigh will only convince Leigh residents further that we are second-class citizens in Wigan borough. That isn't good enough for me, and it isn't good enough for my constituents. I look forward to supporting a properly put together bid for round three of the Levelling Up Fund bid next year for the full £20m Leigh is entitled to.”