AN EXPLOSIVE meeting saw the council's deputy leader blame Leigh's MP for losing out on Levelling Up funding, who said the onus lies on the council.

At a cabinet meeting on Thursday, January, 19, Cllr Keith Cunliffe said that Wigan Council's £11.4m Levelling Up bid for Leigh failed because the town's MP, James Grundy, refused to accept his own town’s bid for money to rejuvenate the town centre. 

The proposals, which sought to spruce up the town’s Civic Square and walkways with nature trails, were also foiled by an unknown Conservative Party member who wrote to the Government asking them to reject their town’s bid, the deputy leader claimed.

Projects two and three included shop front improvements to replace "tired areas" of the town and an overhaul of Leigh’s market hall respectively.

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Leigh Journal: The council looked to revamp shop fronts in Leigh town centre with its bidThe council looked to revamp shop fronts in Leigh town centre with its bid (Image: Wigan Council)

Coun Cunliffe expressed his disappointment that both his ward’s and Ashton’s £7.2 million bid was rejected, while James Grundy called Leigh's unsuccessful bid "inadequate" compared to the successful £20m bid to revamp Haigh Hall.

“It is disappointing places like Leigh and Ashton were not successful,” Cllr Cunliffe told the chamber.

“In terms of Levelling Up funds, there are also future high streets and town funds [that make up the levelling up type of funding].

“Leigh has actually had none of that as it has been allocated elsewhere in the borough. So Leigh has had no national funding. 

“Unfortunately in Leigh, during Levelling Up round one we were on the verge of putting in a bid when the Leigh MP said he would not support it.

"Despite the fact he supported the three elements of the bid we put in, he was not able to support the bid.

“We had a Tory MP in a town that had no Levelling Up funding refusing to support our level two [second round of Levelling Up funding allocations] bid.

"But Tory members, people who stood in the election, they were Tory candidates, actually wrote to the department of Levelling Up asking them to refuse Leigh’s application for a bid.

“It is not surprising that leading members of this party asking them not to support us is part of the reason we did not get it. For me that is pretty poor.”

Leigh Journal: Cllr Keith Cunliffe, deputy leader of Wigan CouncilCllr Keith Cunliffe, deputy leader of Wigan Council (Image: Wigan Council)

Mr Grundy has denied that any Conservative member wrote to the government asking them to reject Leigh’s bid. He clarified that a member wrote on behalf of the town’s businesses to say it was an ‘inadequate’ bid.

He has called for the next round of bidding for the Levelling Up Fund to be at least the full basic £20 million available from the Government, stating that a council-run survey showed that 60 per cent of Leigh’s residents refused to support the Council’s plan for the town centre in the consultation.

“The Leigh Levelling Up Fund bid was always inadequate and doomed to fail, as I said at the time it was put forward,” Mr Grundy said.

“It is clear that, as usual, Wigan Council focussed their efforts on securing a successful bid for Wigan alone.

“Wigan Council proposed to bid for just £11.4 million for the whole of Leigh town centre, as opposed to the bid for £35 million the council submitted just to restore a single building in Wigan, Haigh Hall.

"I urge the Council to get back around the table with myself and other interested local residents and business groups in Leigh, and work with us to put together a successful Levelling Up Fund bid for our community.

“Leigh needs to have the same opportunity to Level Up as Wigan, and we deserve nothing less.”

Leigh Journal: James Grundy lays the blame on the council for an inadequate bidJames Grundy lays the blame on the council for an inadequate bid (Image: James Grundy MP)

Adding, to his official statement, Mr Grundy said: “The council has already written to me [regarding the next round of funding] admitting they could’ve made a stronger bid.”

Council leader Coun David Molyneux confirmed during the cabinet meeting that there would be another bid for the next round of funding for Leigh and Ashton town centre.