Parties unite over boundary plans

Andy Burnham MP
Andy Burnham MP

Political rivals in Leigh have joined forces to defeat new boundary proposals.

Shadow Labour Minister Andy Burnham’s protest over moves to dramatically alter Leigh Constituency is now being backed by Leigh Conservatives in an ultra rare show of cross party accord.

Lowton Tory borough councillor James Grundy - who has signed the joint statement to the Boundary Commission - said today: “We are all together on this one and we hope it sends out the message that nobody messes with our town and gets away with it.”

Mr Burnham said: “Our joint letter demonstrates that this is an issue that is above party politics and unites Leythers across the political spectrum.

“The Boundary Commission has ripped the Leigh Constituency to pieces. Their proposals are disrespectful to our town, its people and its history.

“It would seem that people in an office in London with no knowledge of our area have been drawing random lines on a map. There can be no other explanation for the nonsense they have produced.

“How can it make any sense for Leigh Town Hall no longer to be in the constituency of Leigh?”

In their joint statement of objection, they say that the ‘fragmentation’ of Leigh into three constituencies while pushing the ‘civic and cultural heart of the town’ into Westhoughton was ‘unnecessarily disruptive’.

The statement continues: ‘For decades the Leigh Parliamentary constituency has linked together an area that shares close ties and an industrial and mining past.

‘Your proposed ‘Leigh’ constituency pays little regard to this....it is a random creation, linking places that have no ties and no shared history, contrary to the criteria laid down by Parliament for the commission to follow community ties, local authority boundaries and the existing constituency.

‘Under the proposals key wards that make up the historical boundaries of Leigh town, notably Leigh West and Atherleigh, will no longer be in the constituency and key icons of the Leigh community, including Leigh Town Hall, Leigh Parish Church and Leigh Library - the civic, religious and cultural heart of the town - will be moved to the Westhoughton constituency.

‘The loss of important historical icons of the town’s heritage indicate that the Boundary Commission have not properly taken into account one of the key criteria their proposals must adhere to, community ties.

‘The illogicality of the proposals is further illustrated by the fact that the proposed Bolton-facing Westhoughton constituency has a majority of Wigan Metropolitan Borough wards while the proposed ‘Leigh’ constituency has a majority of Salford Metropolitan Borough wards, instead of being wholly enclosed within the Wigan Borough as it is now.’

They add that other ‘geographically linked and significant places’ in the wider Leigh area will also move out of the constituency, including Pennington Flash and the new development at Bickershaw Colliery, both areas that have firm ties to the town.

While the proposal to split the village of Lowton from the constituency of Leigh is ‘extremely disruptive’ to community ties in the area.

It will divide the wider community of Pennington between constituencies, link parts of Leigh with the southern suburbs of Wigan with which they have no connections at all, community or otherwise, and it will leave Leigh Fire Station in a constituency largely based on the southern suburbs of Wigan.