WIGAN Council has described the ten-year £20m investment plan for Leigh as a "drop in the ocean" compared to local government cuts over the past decade.

As previously reported by the Journal, Leigh was named on a list of 55 "overlooked" towns that will be granted £20m over a ten-year period to help improve high streets and tackle anti-social behaviour.

Following a row over the failed Levelling Up funding in Leigh, the 'Plans For Town' investment will see a new 'Town Board' formed, which will include the town's MP and representatives from Wigan Council and the Greater Manchester Combined Authority.

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Leigh Journal: James Grundy MP with Levelling Up Minister Michael GoveJames Grundy MP with Levelling Up Minister Michael Gove (Image: James Grundy MP)
Conservative James Grundy, MP, who did not support Wigan Council's £11.4m Levelling Up bid for Leigh last year, spoke of his delight at the new £20m funding.

The MP said he is "very proud" to have helped secure the investment and is looking forward to "deliver on the priorities important to local people".

While the council welcomed the investment for Leigh, it stressed that concerns remain with the Levelling Up project and stated that the decade-long funding is a "drop in the ocean" compared to cuts in local government budgets.

Senior councillors previously blamed Mr Grundy for the failure to acquire Levelling Up funding as he did not accept the submission, while the Institute for Government states that local authority spending power in 2021/22 is 10.2% below 2009/10 levels (and slightly skewed by pandemic grants).

In real terms, the researchers state that central government grants have been cut by 40% between 2009/10 and 2019/20, from £46.5bn to £28.0bn (2023/24 prices).

Leigh Journal: Leader of the council, Cllr David MolyneuxLeader of the council, Cllr David Molyneux (Image: Wigan Council)
Councillor David Molyneux MBE, Leader of Wigan Council, said: “Although we welcome this announcement our concerns with the levelling up agenda and system remain.

“While this additional funding will help bring further investment in Leigh, as we have previously stated it is a drop in the ocean given the extent of local government budget cuts over the past decade.

“It also comes after significant time and resources were spent submitting Levelling Up Fund bids to DLUHC with the help of local organisations, businesses and communities which were unsuccessful.

“We have a long-term vision for Leigh as outlined by the town’s Strategic Regeneration Framework and Wigan Council has recently invested £2m in the new Youth Hub facility, £2.5m at Pennington Flash, and regenerated Leigh Town Hall in recent years.

“We will continue to explore all avenues available to us regarding key regeneration projects, including external funding, whether that is through further rounds of the LUF or alternatives.

"We look forward to receiving more details about this funding and the timeframe in the coming weeks.”