Crunch time for boundary battle

Andy Burnham MP and fellow Keep Leigh in Leigh campaigners protest outside Leigh Town Hall
Andy Burnham MP and fellow Keep Leigh in Leigh campaigners protest outside Leigh Town Hall

LEYTHERS are being urged to come together for one last effort to oppose plans which would see the town divided between three Parliamentary constituencies.

So far the Boundary Commission has been sent around 3,800 letters from Leigh people protesting against the plans, but with the Commission’s consultation deadline on December 5 looming, organisers of the Keep Leigh in Leigh campaign are urging everyone who has not already done so to write and make their views known.

There will also be a final rally in the town hall square to protest the plans on Saturday, November 26 at 11.30am, with Leigh MP Andy Burnham and Leigh Centurions chief executive Trevor Barton, both key figures in Keep Leigh in Leigh, appearing.

Mr Burnham says he is hopeful more than 5,000 letters will be sent to the Boundary Commission before the deadline closes.

He said: “The response from the people of Leigh has been a brilliant effort, but there’s still more we can do. If we can get over the 5,000 barrier that’s almost a 10th of the electorate, so that’s a big target for us.

“Walking around Leigh for Remembrance Sunday last weekend so many people came up to me and asked how the campaign was going, and I realised there’s still a lot of concern out there about this. “We saw the initial flash of anger from across the country at the proposals but since then it has died down a bit and we need everyone to give one last big push and keep the momentum going right until December.

“Leigh has had to come together on several fronts in the last few months, and we have shown we’re pretty formidable when we do that, so I think we can come together again and leave the Boundary Commission in no doubt that we speak with one voice in saying that these proposals are unacceptable.

“If Leigh had three different MPs it would be so difficult to get anything done.

“We have managed to give Leigh in recent years so many of the things we want the town to have, such as the sports facilities, the swimming pool, and now the new cinema development at The Loom, which has been an issue in the town for a long time.

“However, the job won’t be done until we have things like better transport facilities, and if three MPs had to agree that would be incredibly hard.

“If the three MPs had different views or even came from different parties, that could become a really divisive issue in the town.”

The issue of boundary changes has gained cross-party support in Westminster, with all three major political parties criticising at least part of the Boundary Commission’s plans.

Keep Leigh in Leigh are also encouraging people to force the issue further on to the parliamentary agenda, with Mr Barton setting up a Government e-petition, which will have to be debated in the House of Commons if enough people sign it.

So far momentum on the e-petition has been building slowly, with around 580 signatures so far, but the campaign is determined that once people have sent their letters to the Boundary Commission attention will turn to building up the petition.

Mr Burnham said: “It’s had a slower start than I was hoping for, but people are now beginning to ask me about it.

“After the Boundary Commission deadline we will be focussing our attention on the e-petition.

“At the moment the most important thing is to get everyone to attend the rally on November 26, and to write letters for the Boundary Commission then distribute them among friends and family.

“I would particularly encourage everyone to submit their own individual thoughts and words, as I think those letters are much more powerful.”