Wednesday, 31 January 2007

Putting up rents - a difficult decision

At the Council meeting recently councillors were asked to approve a rent rise for Council housing of 5% which is above the rate of inflation. In effect it would mean that the rent rise would be £2.72 a week giving an average rent of £57.10. 64 percent of all tenants currently receive housing benefit and so would be protected from any rent increase and just over 36% pay full rent and so would have to pay the increase themselves. When it comes to those 60 or over a much higher proportion (96%) receive Housing Benefit with only just over 300 pensioner tenants out of 9200 paying full rent.

I was very unhappy to vote for an increase in rents over the rate of inflation especially when it affects pensioners. But I had to look at the consequences if I did not vote for this increase. For every £1.00 under the increase £1 million would be lost to the housing revenue.

The easy answer would be to say that there should be no rent increase at all – as the Community Action Party did at the same Council meeting. Well, this might be a popular policy and one which might appeal to some residents but it does have implications. Not to raise the rent by £1.00 would mean:

  • Not finishing the kitchen replacement programme
  • Reducing estate improvements such as the fencing programme
  • Reducing day to day repairs
  • Reducing projects like neighbourhood services and tenant participation

The consequences of a nil percent rise in rents would be catastrophic for the service provided and would have adverse effects on tenants all over Wigan. Voting for an over inflation rise may not be popular but I would not want to see the level of service to tenants suffer to the extent that would happen if I went for the populist option.

Tuesday, 30 January 2007

South Lancs Industrial Estate - Cabinet defers decision to dispose of Council owned land

One of the big issues in Ashton at the moment is a proposed development on the South Lancs Industrial Estate. Patrick Properties, the developers, want to build new units and a road that will connect the units to existing highways. Their first proposal was to join the road on to Bolton Road by the Riding Lane estate - this plan has been scrapped. They now want to build the road going in the other direction, joining the A49 past Bryn lights. A well organised campaign has been mounted by a group of residents calling themselves M.A.D. - they have their own website - who have regularly been in the town centre on a Saturday putting their case against the development. The local Labour party has also done a survey of local residents and found that 99 per cent of those canvassed were against the scheme.

Last Thursday the Cabinet of Wigan MBC was to decide whether to dispose of Council owned land adjoining the South Lancs Industrial Estate which Patrick Properties want to build part of the development on. The Cabinet have decided to defer consideration of this matter to a future meeting to enable Officers to consider objections received to this proposal.

As a local Councillor I asked for this deferment because, in short, I do not believe that this development will be of any great benefit to the people I represent.

If you would like any more information or want to put forward your point of view please contact me

Friday, 26 January 2007

Recognition for the Bevin Boys

Another thing that has given me pleasure recently is to present veterans medals to local men and women on behalf of Ian McCartney. However, I met some men who were were not eligible for the medal because they were Bevin Boys who had worked in the mines to produce much needed coal for the war effort.

I was, therefore, very pleased to read in the local paper that the Government has now accepted local MP Neil Turner's request to recognise the Bevin Boys for their wartime effort.

The Government now plan to introduce a medal similar to the veterans medal (pictured on the right hand side of this blog) to reward the men who spent many hours working in a demanding physical environment performing a vital role in the war effort.

Wednesday, 24 January 2007

New Benches for the Town centre

One of the most satisfying aspects of being a councillor is seeing through a project that local residents have asked for.
In this respect I was delighted when last week, the council erected 2 benches on the Gerard Centre. I know from Labour Party surveys that the lack of seating in the town centre was an issue for local people, particularly the elderly.
I would like to thank the HMG Group (owners Gerard Centre) for allowing the benches to be placed on their property.
Do you know of any other sites that may benefit from seating in and around the town centre? Please contact me on 736216.

Tuesday, 16 January 2007

A campaign for better toilets in Ashton

At a recent public meeting held in Bryn a local resident asked me what I was doing to improve the toilets in Ashton as they were in a disgusting condition. Furthermore there were no facilities for the disabled or for changing babies' nappies.

I said that I would help in any way I could and consequently a campaign was launched last week with an article in the local press and a petition in Ashton town centre. The public response was excellent and we will be in Ashton town centre asking people to sign our petition on Saturdays for the foreseeable future. I will be presenting the signed petitions to Wigan Council's Engineering Department and will be asking for a meeting with officers of the Council to discuss this matter.

If you would like to sign the petition please contact me.

Another clean up in Ashton

Some members of the local Labour Party took some time out last Saturday to remove some litter from the area around Turnill Drive.

If you know of any area in Ashton that needs cleaning up please contact me.

Progress report on the Ashton sewer scheme

The first part of the scheme to resolve sewer flooding in Ashton has been completed. Work has been successfully completed in Bryn Road South and Alexander Road and the tunnelling work at Hilton Street and Hodnet Drive is almost complete - no doubt to the relief of the residents of those two streets. Re-surfacing will begin soon once the plans have been discussed with Wigan Council's Engineering Department.

Approximately three weeks work remains to complete work in Bolton Road.

The second phase in Princess Road will commence in mid February once Transco have carried out some gas main diversion. The works here will last for several months. The target date for completion of the whole project is mid May 2007 when the site cabins will be removed from Orchard Street. It will be then that the Town Green residents group will be able to put their plans into action to improve the area.

United Utilities have promised to write to all residents who are effected by this work to give them precise details of what will be happening in their area.

Please contact me if you wish any more information about this subject.

Thursday, 11 January 2007

The Ruddy Duck - Part Two

The Ruddy Duck seems to be responsible for more than breeding indiscriminately in this country. It is now involved with the war in Iraq. According to Councillor Peter Franzen - leader of the opposition in Wigan the only reason for the proposed slaughter of these ducks is to comply with British Government dictats to all Whitehall departments that all requests from the Spanish Government had to be granted wherever possible to reciprocate their support for the war in Iraq. It would appear that one of these dictats is to cull the ruddy duck.

I will leave it up to readers of this blog to form their own opinion about this issue so feel free to leave a comment.

Wednesday, 10 January 2007

Surprising results

I have just looked at the stats telling me from which countries readers of this blog have logged on. It comes as no surprise that the vast majority come from the U.K. but what has surprised me is that after the U.K. come Egypt,the U.S.A. and Ireland in that order

If these statistics are correct I would love to hear from you if you are logging in from anywhere abroad.

Monday, 8 January 2007


The following areas have been highlighted by local residents for a clean up:

1. the grassy area between Turnhill Street and Heath Road

2. the top of Peter Street where the footpath to Lincoln Drive begins.

3. at the side of the Eagle and Child on Heath Street

4. the footpath running from Liverpool Road to Old Road

I would like to thank the residents who have taken the trouble to inform me of these areas. I will pass them on to Wigan Council's Beat it team.

If you know of anywhere else in the Ashton area that needs cleaning up please contact me by e-mail or on 736216

Saturday, 6 January 2007

£9m - the amount of personal debt in Wigan

As someone who has been involved over several years with helping people who have severe debt problems it comes as no surprise to me to read in the Wigan Reporter that personal debt in the area will rise to £9 million next year. January is a particularly bad time in a lot of households as the full extent of the Christmas spending spree hits home. There are many reasons why people get into debt. It could be borrowing a large amount of money and then being made redundant or falling ill, the lack of budgeting skills, the inability to say no to the many offers of credit that come in the post every day or higher than expected household bills. I also read that more than 10,000 people a month are expected to declare themselves bankrupt this year in this country as a culture of unsustainable debt grows among the' buy now, pay never' generation.

Getting into serious debt can have a devastating effect upon individuals and families. In my experience one of the most common reactions to debt is pretending that it does not exist - which of course will eventually make things much worse. People will also pay money to the creditors that shout the loudest and stop making priority payments such as the rent or mortgage or council tax.

My advice to anyone who is in debt is as follows:
1 make a personal budget and stick to it
2. don't over commit yourself - remember interest rates can go up as can household bills
3. if you get into serious debt don't bury your head in the sand - seek help.
4. always make priority payments such as rent or mortgage, council tax, utility bills.

If you are worried about debt and need to talk to someone you can contact Wigan CAB on 0870 126 4459, visit or call into the CAB office in Gerrard Winstanley House, Crawford Street, Wigan.

Wednesday, 3 January 2007


First of all I would like to wish you a happy and prosperous 2007.

This year one of my main aims is to make Ashton a cleaner place both in the town centre and outlying areas. Different groups in Ashton are doing their best to make their areas clean and their efforts are to be commended. Wigan Council are very active in this respect and run a Beat It initiative every so often in Ashton where they will spend a week cleaning up an area or areas that the public want to see improved.

The next time the Beat it team is in Ashton is from the 15th to the 19th January. Do you want an area near you cleaned up or do you know of an area that is in need of tidying up? If so please contact me by e-mail or phone me on 736216 and I will let the Beat it team know.