Wigan's council tax frozen and £10m town centres cash pot approved

Council leader David Molyneux
Council leader David Molyneux
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New funding initiatives – including a £10m cash pot to boost town centres and £3m to repair potholes – have been unveiled by Wigan council bosses.

A £1m scheme to provide extra activities for borough schoolchildren was also announced by leader David Molyneux.

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They come as part of the Labour administration’s budget for 2019/20, including a council tax freeze, which was approved by the full council on Wednesday night.

Wigan is one of only two authorities across the country not to impose a rise in its part of tax bills this year, although residents will see increases for the Greater Manchester mayor and police precepts.

The financial plan includes no cuts to frontline services despite the town hall setting itself a savings target of £8.5m for the year, part of £160m cut from its budget by 2020.

Coun Molyneux said: “We are now in a position where we don’t need to make any further cuts to frontline services, we will have the lowest council tax in GM, and we’re investing money in our town centres. We are choosing to freeze council tax for the sixth year despite us being the third worst affected authority by government cuts in 2010.”

A £10m fund for town centres – not just Wigan and Leigh – is aimed at "kick-starting regeneration and supporting local businesses" in a challenging era for the high street, the town hall has said.

It comes in addition to plans to extend free weekend parking in Wigan and Leigh for another year.

Coun Molyneux said: “We are doing our bit and I would appeal to the public to do their bit by buying locally from their local town centre.”

The £3.3m earmarked to fix potholes and repair highways will supplement £1.7m of government funding, with Coun Molyneux acknowledging the state of the borough’s roads are a real concern for residents.

And an extra £1m will be available to borough schools to fund extra activities for youngsters, from sports and dance classes to cooking and digital learning.

Coun Molyneux added: “Budgets are tight for many schools which can limit the extra-curricular activities schools are able to support.

“I wanted through The Deal to give schools the opportunity to put on these enrichment activities.”

Conservative group leader Michael Winstanley welcomed the investment in town centres as it was similar to a Tory proposal in 2016.

His amendment calling for the town hall’s Borough Life magazine to become digital to save on distribution costs was voted down.

The budget – supported by Coun Winstanley and his fellow Tory members – was approved by 63 to two with one abstention.