A good day in Wigan ( though not at the Pier; which does exist and I have visited: btw refers to Orwell novel!).
I was meeting Lord Peter Smith, Leader of the Council , and chair of the GM councils group, and his team to talk about how to follow up on the Youth Unemployment Commission. We discussed potential for action both in Wigan and Greater Manchester and possibilities on youth bonds. Its exciting to be able to work with a council that wants a partnership approach across the 3 sectors.
I know Wigan well from my days doing pay negotiations for local government. The Chair of the Employers, Cllr Baldwin was a councillor here and I'd be a regular visitor. Wigan town centre is charmingly untouched by nasty 60s redevelopment. And following our meeting Lord Smith took me and my 2 brains Policy Director Ralph off to see their one stop shop jobs and skills centre- a real model for how to help the unemployed back into work by working on the person and the reasons they can't get into work; often many and varied. A good Council.
And just time to grab fish and chips from Roy's chippie just opposite the Station to eat on way back to London and the gathering media storm on the charity tax cap.
Although it was good to watch the statements from the PM in Indonesia he still muddied the waters by talking about dodgy charities , this time european ones. And in the morning press we see HMT have listed ways in which they believe charities and philanthropists are dodging tax. I even managed a phone in programme for the BBC on my mobile on the train!
I have written formally to the Charity Commission to ask them to investigate. This story has now developed in a way that may undermine the trust and confidence of the public in charities generally. It is the job of the regulator to stamp out abuse. They must now act to investigate these claims. It is increasingly untenable for them to say nothing and I await a response from them to my request.
Sir Stephen your comments about Wigan being a council that wants to work across sectors and create jobs and life chances for our young people are welcome. Despite being penalised on a regular basis from the annual government financial settlements. The council strives to do its best for all our residents even if many of them do not agree with everything they do.
Over the years the Council has been praised by many from the commercial and political sectors including Margaret Thatcher for being a prudent council. Lord Smith was practising good financial management when he let you buy your own chips from Roy’s. This practical and pragmatic approach has been carried over to the one stop shop or Life Centre as it’s known here.
The town centre itself is pretty and charming and has a character that many others do not and it has more green space then any other town or city in the region. It’s a great place to live and work and hopefully it will be even better in the future due to the work of the council and its partner public and private.
We’ve just had the Food and Drink Festival over the coming weeks we have the Words Festival and then the International Jazz Festival to name a few cultural events. After last nights win against Manchester United premiership glory is still on the cards for Wigan Athletic next season. The Olympic Flame will come through the town at the end of May and some of our citizens will be competitors in the Olympics. Dozens of events and street parties are planned for the jubilee and next year the town will be hosting part of the Rugby World Cup competition.
Wigan a no mark northern town? I don’t think so.
I do have to confess that I am a council employee but that’s not the reason I replied to your blog. It’s because I am a proud Wiganer and wanted to thank you for your positive views of the council, town and Roy’s chips. I hope you get a swift reply from the charity commission and enjoy the delight of Wigan again soon.
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