False promises and lack of funding has left a bitter taste in the mouth of many Leigh residents as they look ahead to the upcoming council elections on May 5. The majority of the people in the town center believe that their Conservative MP James Grundy is battling with a Labor controlled council – resulting in a lack of action in the area.
Once an impenetrable Labor stronghold for almost a century, many Leythers shed lifelong allegiances to elect a Conservative MP for the first time back in 2019. Tory candidate James Grundy won comfortably on the night, amassing almost 2,000 more votes than Labour’s Jo Platt.
But the same cannot be said for the council with all wards in the Leigh area going to the Labor Party in the 2021 local elections. However, Jamie Hodgkinson took the Atherton seat for the Independent Network. This battle between the Labor controlled council and the Tory MP is causing a stalemate, many regulars in the town center believe.
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Christine Grundy, 65, E&J Cards in Leigh Market, said: “I always vote. I usually vote Conservative but it is all a bit up in the air at the moment. “I feel I have been let down with all that has gone on with the Government recently.
“I will look through what they have to say for themselves [Conservatives] and I will see if I would like to carry on with them. I feel all elections do matter, even local politics.”
The people of Leigh wanted change after the last general election and voted in a Conservative MP for the first time, but many believe that change has not happened yet. This election is all to play for in Leigh as there are many who may change their minds back and are unhappy with the way council have done things.
Charles William Snape, 84, said: “I will be voting in this election. The politics in Leigh is a mixed bag at the moment.
“They say they are going to develop this and that but nothing seems to have happened yet. I have voted for the Conservatives and Liberals in the past.
“At my age I am looking for a nice easy time of it. I vote for the candidate rather than the party.
“I thought Labor had lost their way a bit last time. There are so many things like in my area (Atherton) there are issues with roads and I struggle to get out, everyone complains but nothing ever happens.”
Charles was in Leigh for the first time in years to see an old friend and he said it is that way for a reason – lack of development in the area. Others in the area feel so let down by the council and politics all together and do not even know if they will vote.
They feel it will not make a difference if they vote or not – a feeling that many in Leigh have had for decades before the 2019 general election.
Maureen Colton, aged 74, was visiting the high street in Leigh, she said: “I am not sure if I will vote or not. I have kind of lost interest because of the way things are. I sometimes think it won’t make any difference when I vote.
“I didn’t even vote in the last general election because I thought it didn’t matter. I used to vote in the council elections and be really good with that.
“I think they got a bit lackadaisical here because it was always Labor so they did not have to try, I think even James Grundy was surprised when he got in.”
Ironically waiting for a bus to leave the town centre, Doreen Bartley, 86, made her ill feeling towards the council very clear, she said: “I always vote in the elections but I am not voting this time. I feel very let down with the council because when you have a problem they evade it.
“When they say they are going to do something they don’t end up doing it. I have been Labor for the majority of my life but I have voted Tory in the past.
“I base my vote on the promises made at each election. I will never vote Labor again, I will not vote at all actually now. I like to follow politics but never again for council elections.”
There have been calls for Lexit, Leigh’s split from Wigan Council, and this is something still felt by Leythers since the 1970’s when their own council and Wigan’s was merged.
A fishmonger at the market, Glenn Furnival, believes the current council doesn’t understand what happens in the real world and in particular the market. He thinks that the people of Leigh want their own council again.
“The problem in Leigh is that there is a Conservative MP fighting against a Labor council, it is just like the problems at Westminster because everything is tit for tat and nothing ever gets done,” the 39-year-old said.
“It is full of empty promises and if anything does happen it takes too long. It is just a stalemate at the moment. Nothing really changes.
“There is an ill feeling towards the council in this town because we used to have our own council until it got merged with Wigan. The problem is they have never invested in the surrounding areas. Whenever anything has happened it has always come from grants, it never seems to be the council investing any money.
“In Wigan town center they will invest their money in that but the suburbs do not seem to be thought of.”
MP James Grundy is pushing for Leigh independence as well, stating back in November 2021 in parliament that his constituents have ‘never accepted’ this state of affairs. A review of the ward boundaries of towns across England is currently underway, with the Boundary Commission set to make changes to which areas fall in MPs constituencies by 2023.
George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.