EARLIER this month we set out our budget plans for 2024/25 at a meeting of the full council.

We are proud once again to have approved a balanced budget with no cuts to services and, as I said on the night, many other councils up and down the country would like to be in the same position as us.

Although we have been left with no choice by the government in setting a council tax rise, residents of this borough will still be paying the lowest rates in Greater Manchester and the lowest for a metropolitan borough.

We were also delighted to announce some key investments, including £1m to support local firms to take on apprentices, building on the success of our Future Apprentices for Business scheme.

A further £1m will be invested in a community fund, focused on helping grassroots projects and programmes, which has been a key feature of our budget announcements for many years now.

An important date on the horizon is the 50th anniversary of the formation of Wigan Borough, something that we will be marking throughout the remainder of 2024.

On this theme, a new exhibition will open next week telling the story of the people, places and communities that have shaped our borough over the last five decades.

Forward, Together will be hosted by the Archives: Wigan and Leigh, based at Leigh Town Hall, and will remain open until September.

It has been curated with the help of students from Wigan and Leigh College, making use of our extensive photographic archives and highlighting some of the key milestones our communities have witnessed since 1974.

As we are soon entering the pre-election period for local government, this will be my last column for a few months.

On Thursday, May 2, there are local elections in Wigan Borough and also the Greater Manchester Mayoral election.

For the local elections here in the borough, a third of the seats in the council chamber (25) are up-for-grabs, one in each electoral ward.

Following the recent update to voting legislation, voters will be required to show photographic ID in order to vote on the day and the voter registration deadlines are also coming up.

n If you’d like to know more about voter ID or your options on how to vote, please visit www.wigan.gov.uk/elections