SOME people living in Leigh may claim the town has been unfairly ignored, but few would claim it has disappeared entirely ... until now.
Thanks to a bizarre statistical quirk, the online results of the latest census appear to have wiped Leigh off the map and made it part of a large new urban centre of Atherton.
The odd aberration occurs when the census results, gathered in 2011, are analysed on the official labour market statistics website Nomis.
If results are searched using the criteria “built up area including subdivisions”, the table of North West figures show no sign at all of Leigh but report Atherton now has a population of more than 70,000, roughly equivalent to what would result if the numbers of people living in the two towns were joined together.
Fortunately the mistake is likely to have little practical effect on the ground in the home of lobby and the Centurions rugby league side, as the census website accurately records figures for Leigh’s parliamentary constituency and the town’s wards in Wigan Council, both of which are far more likely to be used by the Government to allocate funding.
Nevertheless, the oversight has irritated a few proud Leythers, who have contacted the Office of National Statistics (ONS) to complain.
John Riley, 28, said: “I was just interested in some of the census results so I went online to have a look, and thought it was odd I couldn’t find Leigh at all.
“If you look at Leigh over the years, it has lost its railway station, its industry, its A&E, and now it seems it has been finally wiped off the map. If we were all grouped together as Manchester you would think it’s weird but makes sense, but it singles out Leigh. It’s just as though local, individual places don’t seem to matter.”
The re-naming of the Leigh urban area is particularly unfortunate when considering that some very small but geographically distinct areas, such as Bickershaw in Wigan (population 747) or the small village of Uppermill, are included in the North West list.
The ONS confirmed the Ordnance Survey (OS) was responsible for allocating place names to the built up areas on the census, butsaid it was unlikely to make a practical difference.
A spokesman for Census Customer Services said: “The names in the 2011 dataset were generated using an automated process, based on a cartographic data sources that OS use to apply names to settlements in their mapping products.
“We are not aware of any Government policy which allocates funding on the basis of built-up area sub-divisions. Most funding is allocated at local authority level, and is therefore unaffected by the names assigned to the built-up area sub-divisions.”