Leigh Observer column - 8 May 2018

I must start by saying congratulations to Atherton’s newest councillor – Councillor Stuart Gerrard.

I have known Stuart for a few years and know that he is passionate about our great town. He has done a fantastic job chairing Atherton Residents’ Association, holding Wigan Council to account at every moment.

He was central to the campaign to save Formby Hall and always seems to be doing something to support Atherton, whether it’s getting potholes reported or campaigning for greater investment in the town.

Time and time again Atherton has been let down by Wigan Council – whether it’s overlooking us for the town centre challenge investment fund or taking away our facilities. We need a strong voice on the Council. Someone who is able to stand up to the local Labour Leadership and demand our fair share of investment, rather than just meekly accept what Lord Smith says.

The people of Atherton appear to have agreed and the Independent candidate was elected with a big majority. He has achieved a stunning result. Stuart now joins Councillor Jamie Hodgkinson as the two Independents representing Atherton. There is just one Labour councillor here.

It was also a bad night for Labour elsewhere in my constituency. Labour only managed to hang on to one of the seats they were defending in Bolton West (and even that was by a very small margin). Conservatives and Independents gained seats across Bolton, and the Liberal Democrats also gained a single seat. Elsewhere in the Wigan Borough, independents gained a handful of seats from Labour. The Conservatives also gained a seat in Orrell. It seems that the further away you get from Wigan Town Hall, the more dissatisfied people are with the Labour leadership.

It’s clear that local people are fed up with Labour and are looking for answers elsewhere.

The UKIP vote appears to have completely disappeared, likely because the Conservatives are getting on with delivering on Brexit.

It has been an interesting election campaign and it will be interesting to see how the picture looks in 2019.

Congratulations again to Stuart and I look forward to working with you over the next few years.

 

A number of people have asked me for an update on the Maxilead situation.

To remind you of what’s happened, I contacted the Secretary of State for Communities, Housing and Local Government to intervene in the dispute after concerns were raised with me. 
Local residents woke up one day to find trees being cleared on land very close to their properties. After investigating, it turned out that Wigan Council had given the green light for a scrap metal firm to move close to their homes without hardly anyone being notified.

This clearly caused a lot of concern and I chaired a public meeting, organised by local resident Lorraine Higson, where it became clear that no one, not even the local councillors, were aware of the development.

The then Secretary of State, Sajid Javid, wrote back to me, confirming that his officials were looking into the Maxilead debacle further to see if they had grounds for ‘calling it in’ – meaning that the Secretary of State would have the final say on the decision.

However, during pre-election campaign periods, central and local governments are in a period of purdah, when they aren’t allowed to make any announcements which could be seen to affect the forthcoming election. That’s why we haven’t had any news yet.

There has also been a small reshuffle and we now have a new Secretary of State in the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government. I’ll be bringing this case to James Brokenshire’s attention when I return to Parliament next week and I will of course keep you updated on what happens.