Young and old join forces to improve their community as The Deal hits Leigh

Samantha Shovelton, pre-school manager for Agape Sunbeams, with the children.
Samantha Shovelton, pre-school manager for Agape Sunbeams, with the children.

People of all ages joined together to improve their local community during an exciting week of action in Leigh.

Wigan Council’s The Deal is a new approach to council services which supports local people to improve their own communities and become more self-reliant.

The council brought The Deal to the Higher Folds neighbourhood in Leigh this week and teamed up with volunteers, community groups and other organisations.

Council teams blitzed the neighbourhood – transforming the area by filling in potholes, repairing kerbs, disposing of fly-tipping, replacing worn street plates, re-painting road markings and putting in flower planters.

Residents played their part by taking part in litter picks, tidying up the streets and planting flowers and plants.

By working directly with the community, the council believes it can transform the way it works and reduce demand on services to help avoid stopping services altogether.

As a reward the council is freezing Council Tax to help residents manage their own financial challenges.

Children from the two-year-old nursery and Agape Sunbeams pre-school, both based in Higher Folds Community Centre, took part in planting vegetables and flowers in their garden.

They were helped by volunteer Julie Dean, 42, from the Community Voice group who runs the community garden in Richmond Drive.

Julie said: “The Deal is brilliant. The residents want their estate to be nice and tidy but we all need to muck in and work together. It’s our rubbish at the end of the day.

“We have a brilliant community in Higher Folds. They all get involved and they enjoy it, especially the children and parents. We’re one big happy family.”

Resident June Cunningham, 77, was happy with the work the council did to tidy up the grass verges on Stirling Close.

She said: “I think it’s lovely. It’s made a big difference.”

June has lived in Higher Folds for 32 years and was formerly the chair of the residents’ association.

“I like it round here,” she said. “I have lots of friends and the neighbours are good. It’s a good community. It’s nice of the council to come and make the estate look better.”

Samantha Shovelton, pre-school manager for Agape Sunbeams, said the children enjoyed the planting in the morning and they were picking litter in the afternoon as part of a full day of The Deal activity.

Meanwhile, children from St Gabriel’s Catholic Primary School created art on a theme of helping their community and also learned how to care for wildlife and birds with leisure and culture provider, WLCT.

There was also a range of council services offering advice and information to residents at Higher Folds Community Centre including recycling information, dog behaviour advice and how to register to vote.

Members of the community signed pledge cards to take more care and ownership of the neighbourhood– and take more responsibility for staying healthy, recycling, volunteering and being involved in the community.

The council will take The Deal to every area of the borough to encourage its 320,000 residents to help take more care of their local area. Higher Folds is the second area to receive it.

Lord Peter Smith, leader of Wigan Council, said: “By working together with our residents we hope to increase their responsibility for their neighbourhoods and encourage more personal responsibility.

“We believe there will be long-term health benefits, both physical and mental, through residents being involved in their communities and engaged with services.

“This will reduce the need for expensive council and health services in the long-term.”