LABOUR'S Shadow Home Secretary said that people in Leigh "badly need change" after 14 years of Conservative rule.

On the day that Labour launched its pre-election campaign and 'first steps for change', Yvette Cooper MP visited Leigh to discuss six pledges that the party believes will transform the country.

On Thursday, May 16, an electronic billboard showcased these pledges outside Leigh town hall; highlighting Labour's commitment to economic stability, improving NHS waiting times, tackling criminal boat gangs, launching a green 'Great British Energy' company, cracking down on anti-social behaviour, and recruiting thousands of more teachers.

READ > 19 council chiefs feature on 'Town Hall Rich List' with six-figure pay packets

Leigh Journal: Labour voters and councillors gathered outside Leigh town hall for the speechLabour voters and councillors gathered outside Leigh town hall for the speech (Image: Leigh Journal)
As Labour puts pressure on the Conservatives to call a General Election, the Shadow Home Secretary's visit has been seen as an effort to win back support in an area that the party lost for the first time in almost a century in the 2019 election.

With concerns raised on how the Conservatives have handled austerity cuts, NHS waiting lists, Brexit, the pandemic, and the cost of living crisis, Yvette Cooper said that families in Leigh are "worse off than they were 14 years ago".

Despite repeated calls to create a 'northern powerhouse' or to 'level up' the north, the Shadow Home Secretary said that the government has been "mired in its own chaos" instead of helping families and providing a positive impact for people in the north.

As there was a reduction in police numbers of around 20,000 between 2010 and 2019, the Normanton, Pontefract and Castleford MP also called for more neighbourhood police officers to tackle the blight of anti-social behaviour across communities.

Leigh Journal: The Shadow Home Secretary spoke to voters and councillorsThe Shadow Home Secretary spoke to voters and councillors (Image: Labour)
Speaking in Leigh, Yvette Cooper MP said: "We’ve been working really hard to earn back every vote, but also to encourage people who may never have voted for Labour in the past, to vote for Labour.

"I think after 14 years of Conservatives, we badly need change. We need that in Leigh and right across the north west.

“When you see families in Leigh are worse off then they were 14 years ago and the huge delays in getting NHS appointments, GP appointments, and dentists appointments, [you see] the change that Labour could bring.

“[This change will be] in terms of the economy and stability, in having a proper industrial policy and also getting things like neighbourhood policing back in the town centre and tackling anti-social behaviour, as well as getting GP and NHS appointments back in place.

"It is those practical things that I think are the most important issues [for voters in Leigh].”

Leigh Journal: The MP said that people have been badly let down by the ToriesThe MP said that people have been badly let down by the Tories (Image: Labour)
Speaking about repeated calls to 'level up' the north, the MP added: “This is also an issue for me in Yorkshire, just as it is here on the other side of the Pennines.

“I think families right across the north have been really badly let down and all of the promises that have been made, broken promises [have shown] a government that has just gone for gimmicks rather than ever getting a grip.

“[The government] has really been mired in its own chaos, while families are really struggling.

“[This has been seen] when you look at the way people have been hit by energy bills soaring, and when you look at the way we have been hit by not ever having a proper industrial strategy that has had a real impact on jobs across the north of England.

“This is why I think Labour’s plans [will work for the north], whether it is these first steps that we have set out today, the things that Rachel Reeves has said about economic stability so that businesses across the north can grow, Ed Milliband’s plans for Great British Energy to bring energy bills down.

“Or [there is] my plan to for town centre’s across the north of England to get our neighbourhood police patrols back which we have lost, as we have seen [officers] cut back and problems with anti-social behaviour.

“[This will help] boost our high streets again by making streets safer and we will scrap and replace business rates that are really badly hitting our town centre shops.”

Leigh Journal: Labour set out its six pledges for government on May 16Labour set out its six pledges for government on May 16 (Image: Labour)
Speaking about Labour's pre-election pledges, Chair of the Conservative party Richard Holden said: "[Labour's] speech was devoid of any plan for Britain.

"Sir Keir Starmer is a serial promise breaker who doesn't have the courage or conviction to stick to a single a pledge he has ever made.

"His unfunded spending, higher taxes and amnesty for illegal migrants would take Britain back to square one."

The Tories are reported to have met the party pledge to recruit 20,000 police officers last year, following previous cuts to the Force. An effort to re-introduce neighbourhood policing has also been seen in recent years in Leigh.