‘LEVELLING Up’ and the recent allocation of funds has had a mixed response around the country.

Leigh and Bolton did not win their bids but Wigan did. It rather undermines the narrative, created by the opposition, that there was much bias in the system.

It has been claimed funding went disproportionately to Conservative-run areas but the fact is the majority of successful bids went to opposition-led councils. It is the councils who put bids in, rather than the MP, and most put several bids in.

Rural areas, even though they often have significant poverty, often cannot support a suitable levelling up bid. The big cities, such as Manchester and Liverpool, already have the lion's share of inward investment both from national government and the private sector. Rural areas are generally Conservative supporting and the big cities are generally Labour supporting but it is the smaller towns in between that have often missed out and are now targeted for more support.

Leigh Journal: Chris Green MPChris Green MP (Image: Stock)

I was a little surprised that Wigan Council favoured Haigh Hall for their bid as opposed to other projects that could directly benefit their residents but, the levelling up money combined with the other pots of cash they are accessing, will give this local landmark a huge boost.

Wigan Council’s bid, for walking and cycling routes through Atherton, much of the rest of the borough and on to link in with the wider area, failed as well but they can try again in the third round of funding.

The results, the winners and losers, have triggered a bit of a falling out between MPs and also with their local councils. It is particularly stark locally with James Grundy being deeply concerned with Wigan Council’s championing of Haigh Hall ahead of supporting Leigh town centre.

Wigan Council only put in a bid of £11.4m for Leigh but a £20m bid for Haigh Hall which was, in turn, part of a £35m bid – three times as much for one hall than for the whole of Leigh town centre. The most important questions are over the quality of the bid for Leigh and whether it is better to put a bigger and better one in next time to squeeze out an additional £8.6m of investment for residents.

Wigan Council should not short-change residents with a small bid for Leigh when a full £20m bid could have served the community better. In fact, Wigan Council have admitted to James Grundy that a stronger bid could have been made.

It reminds me that, a few years ago, Wigan Council had the opportunity to apply for a Greater Manchester mayoral grant for Atherton town centre but decided not to because too much investment was required.

No wonder calls for independence are so strong.