A GOVERNMENT minister gave a major boost to efforts to give Atherton its own town council by meeting campaigners and receiving a petition.
Communities secretary Eric Pickles received a document with around 2,000 signatures and heard about the campaign to give the town its own elected body during a meeting at Victoria Mill yesterday.
The petition was presented by independent councillor Norman Bradbury, and campaigners heard Mr Pickles promise new legislation was about to be brought into law which would make setting up parish or town councils easier.
He also offered support for local democracy, saying he failed to understand why there was resistance to the idea among existing town halls.
Mr Pickles said: “What has happened here is not unique. You have to go through too many hurdles to get a town council.
“I can’t understand why another council doesn’t want a parish or a town council. It can devolve powers to it which means a council can look after more strategic things.”
The campaigners asked the minister to visit the borough to ask if an appeals procedure could be put in place to provide a national decision on community governance reviews which determine the setting up of town councils.
Coun Bradbury and his fellow campaigners have held two petitions on the issue, but although an overwhelmingly majority of those who voted backed the proposal Wigan Council said the turnout was too low.
Coun Bradbury said he was pleased by the outcome of yesterday’s meeting.
He said: “I think Mr Pickles is obviously going to change some legislation and he hasn’t come to give us nothing.
“Local government funding is going to be reduced irrespective of who wins the election and places like Atherton need to be regenerated.
“The only way to ensure Atherton gets funding is to fund it ourselves through a precept for a town council.
“The average is about £10 per year, which would mean funding of around £200,000 a year. With that we could make progress in our community and bring back pride in it.”
A small group of protestors opposed to the town council also turned up at the Bolton Road mill but did not get to speak to Mr Pickles.