THE first day of March marks the first full council meeting for Wigan in 2023 – and it is of huge importance with the new council tax setting to be agreed. 

Usually the most controversial points of debate come in the later section of the meeting when motions come to pass – but the 4.99 per cent tax rise will surely be thrown back and forth between political parties as they square off in the metaphorical ring.

The Independent Network’s representative for Atherton Cllr James Paul Watson has already stated he cannot support the new budget setting.

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He declared this at a special cabinet budget meeting that included the Confident Council Scrutiny Committee on February 16 – a sucker punch before the box office council event.

Cllr Watson claimed that the tax hike proposed to start in April is ‘just too much’, referencing rising gas, electricity and food prices. Council bosses have proposed to increase base council tax by 2.99 per cent and the Social Care precept by two per cent.

The Conservative Party has not officially given their stance on the matter so far – but they are sure to put their two cents in when crowds of councillors gather in Wigan Town Hall. One item on the agenda the Tories have not agreed to so far is the proposed new members code of conduct.

The new code of conduct, dubbed “as useless as a chocolate fire guard” by Cllr John Vickers previously, is to be voted on in the council chamber on Wednesday night. The newly aligned protocol requires councillors to ‘act with integrity and honesty, act lawfully, treat all persons with civility, lead by example and act in a way that secures public confidence in the office of councillor’. 

The Labour leader David Molyneux and his group agreed with the principle of the new code of conduct, but believed that without legitimate powers to enforce these rules they would be useless in dealing with those that did not adhere to it. The proposal from councillors to have powers to suspend members for up to six months was rejected by the Local Government Association last year.

Begrudgingly, Labour have agreed to it alongside the Independent Group – which includes all the independent councillors and the Independent Network who control the Atherton ward. No motions have been declared yet, but with the all out elections in May now in sight, there is sure to be an appetite for councillors to come forward in the coming days.

The full council meeting is due to kick off at 6pm in Wigan Town Hall on March 1.