Independence bid looms

Atherton town centre
Atherton town centre

A LONG-running bid for a new tier of borough democracy has cleared a key hurdle.

Wigan’s ruling cabinet has been told that a re-run enabling petition calling for a town council for Atherton, has now been accepted as legitimate and fulfilling the required criteria.

The earlier effort was declared void after a technical row over which specific area would be represented by the new body.

But questions are already being asked about the cost of the Community Governance Review referendum and whether council taxpayers should have to foot the bill in these financially straitened times.

The former Atherton UDC area has 17,617 voters which meant the petition needed to attract support of at least 1,762 (10 per cent) of the electorate to succeed - which it did.

A council spokesman said the cost of a referendum had not been worked out but it would be included in the second report to cabinet and council cabinet on August 29 and full council on September 11.

Town councils are civil parish councils which have declared themselves to be a town and are the most local level of elected governance. Depending upon local laws and regulations, it can usually self-organize and elect a leader to set the agenda. They have the power to precept (tax) residents to support operations and have responsibility for allotments, recreation grounds, parks, cemeteries, litter clearance and footpath maintenance.

Petitioner, Atherton WIN Independent councillor Norman Bradbury, said the cabinet’s approval of a move to the referendum marked “Independence Day.”

He added: “I hope that the method that’s adopted by the council for the community governance review will give everybody the chance to express their views, either for or against a Town Council, and not the botched method used in 2010.

“Then it was hit and miss if you actually got the consultation document, and if you did, there was only for each household no matter how many people lived there. I would appeal to all the residents in the proposed Atherton Town Council area to demand their right to local democracy and vote yes to a Town Council.”

But Atherton Labour councillor and ruling Cabinet member Susan Loudon questioned whether it was right to use council taxpayers’ money for such a purpose.

She said: “I think ‘what will it cost’ is a good question, along with who will pay? Every person in the borough will have to fund the referendum and that will mean less services for all people.”