Wigan (metropolitan borough)

Metropolitan Borough of Wigan

The Metropolitan Borough of Wigan is a metropolitan borough of Greater Manchester, in North West England. It is named after its largest component town, Wigan, but covers a far larger area, which includes the towns of Leigh, Ashton-in-Makerfield, Ince-in-Makerfield and Hindley. The borough was formed in 1974 and is an amalgamation of several former local government districts and parishes. The borough has three civil parishes and lies directly to the west of the City of Salford and southwest of the Metropolitan Borough of Bolton.


The borough is the most north western in Greater Manchester. Within Greater Manchester, it borders the Metropolitan Borough of Bolton to the north-east and east, and the City of Salford to the east. Outwith Greater Manchester, in the south it borders Warrington (a unitary authority in Cheshire); to the south-west it borders the Metropolitan Borough of St Helens in Merseyside. To the west it borders the West Lancashire district, and to the north it borders the Chorley borough, both in Lancashire.


The metropolitan borough was created on April 1, 1974 by the Local Government Act 1972. It was formed from the county borough of Wigan along with following existing local government units from the administrative county of Lancashire :

Wigan Metropolitan Borough's new coat of arms is based on various elements from the arms of the predecessor districts.

Prior to its creation, the name Wigan-Leigh was used in the Redcliffe-Maud Report. It was then suggested that the new metropolitan borough be named Makerfield (with reference to Makerfield). However borh names were rejected for Wigan, by a vote of 12 to 2.

From 1974, local government was under a two-tier system, with Wigan Metropolitan Borough Council covering most functions, and the Greater Manchester County Council. The county council was abolished in 1986 by the Local Government Act 1985.

The population of the borough has stayed roughly static since the 1970s at around 300,000.



Four parliamentary constituencies cover the borough: Wigan, Makerfield, Leigh, and Worsley. Worsley also covers parts of Salford. New constituencies boundaries recommended by the Boundary Commission will see the link to Salford broken, and part of the borough (the Atherton ward) included in the Bolton West constituency. All four seats are considered safe seats for the Labour Party, and they or predecessors have returned Labour members consistently since the Second World War. Makerfield is the only constituency to have returned Labour MPs continuously since 1906.

Local government

The first elections to the borough council were held on 10 May 1973. Each ward has three councillors, and elections are by third, with one councillor from each ward up for re-election in each election year. The 2004 election was for all seats, as ward boundaries had changed. The next elections are planned for 2007.

The borough council has a leader and cabinet system. The current leader is Peter Smith, who also sits in the House of Lords as a Labour Party life peer, under the title Lord Smith of Leigh. He first became leader in 1991.. The council rejected the idea of a directly-elected mayor following a consultation in 2001.

Wigan is traditionally a Labour stronghold - the council has been Labour Party-controlled since its creation. The local elections in 1998 resulted in a council with only 2 non-Labour members.

Labour have a majority with 43 seats as of the 2006 election. The second largest party on the council is the local Community Action Party, also active in St Helens and Warrington, which had 15 seats. Community Action first contested Wigan elections in 2002, and won 18 seats in the 2004 election following the re-warding - their councilors are for wards in the middle of the borough, between Wigan and Leigh. The Conservative Party has nine seats, and the Liberal Democrats eight.

The council uses Wigan Town Hall as its main headquarters. Leigh Town Hall is used as a secondary base.


The borough is divided into 25 electoral wards, each of which elect three councillors. The present wards were adopted in 2003, following a review by the Boundary Commission : the previous review took place in 1979. The borough was formerly divided in 24 wards. The wards are as follows:

The previous wards were

  • Langtree
  • Leigh Central
  • Leigh East
  • Lightshaw
  • Newtown
  • Norley
  • Orrell
  • Swinley
  • Tyldesley East
  • Whelley
  • Winstanley
  • Worsley Mesnes
  • Labour Clubs

    The Metropolitan Borough of Wigan has long been a heartland of the National Union of Labour & Socialist Clubs, having at one time 30 Labour Clubs in the town . In recent years this has gone down to about ten. The NULSC has also used Haigh Hall for an annual festival.

    Settlements and subdivisions

    Component areas of the borough include Wigan itself, Abram, Ashton-in-Makerfield, Aspull, Astley, Atherton, Bryn, Golborne, Haigh, Higher End, Hindley, Ince-in-Makerfield, Leigh, Lowton, Orrell, Platt Bridge, Standish, Shevington and Tyldesley.

    The ONS identify a Wigan Urban Area in the west of the district with a population of 166,840. It considers towns in the east of the borough to be part of the Greater Manchester Urban Area. Ashton-in-Makerfield, Aspull, Golborne and Shevington are identified as standalone urban areas.


    The borough has three civil parishes: Haigh, Shevington and Worthington. The rest of the borough is an unparished area. Turning to ecclesiastical parishes, the Wigan Parishes are under the Diocese of Liverpool, although parishes in the east section of the Metropolitan Borough are under the Diocese of Manchester and the northern section under the Diocese of Blackburn.


    Wigan Council has divided the borough into ten areas by the name of townships, with a Township Manager and a Township Forum each. . The townships are as follows:

    Township Wards
    Ashton-in-Makerfield / Bryn Ashton; Bryn
    Atherton Atherton
    Hindley / Abram Abram; Hindley; Hindley Green
    Leigh Atherleigh; Leigh North; Leigh South; Leigh West
    Lowton / Golborne Golborne and Lowton West; Lowton East
    Orrell / Higher End / Winstanley Orrell; Winstanley; Billinge Higher End
    Standish / Aspull / Shevington Aspull-New Springs-Whelley; Shevington with Lower Ground; Standish with Langtree
    Tyldesley / Astley Astley-Mosley Common; Tyldesley
    Wigan North Ince; Wigan Central; Wigan West
    Wigan South Douglas; Pemberton; Worsley Mesnes


    With a population of around 300,000, Wigan is the second most populous borough of Greater Manchester, after Manchester itself. It also has one of the lowest non-white populations, with the 2001 census reporting 98.7% of the population as white. Unemployment is around average for England and Wales. 9.5% of the population is "permanently sick or disabled" compared to an average of 5.5%.


    Crime in the borough has continued to fall in recent years, and is now statistically the safest borough in Greater Manchester.


    According to an opinion poll, 26% of 299 residents surveyed felt they belonged "very strongly" or "fairly strongly" (4% very strongly) to Greater Manchester, 64% (28% very strongly) to the borough of Wigan, and 63% (31% very strongly) to Lancashire.


    Several railway lines cross the borough. Wigan Wallgate railway station is served by trains to Southport, Kirkby, Manchester Victoria and Rochdale. Wigan North Western railway station is located on the West Coast Main Line and trains run from there to Liverpool Lime Street and Blackpool North.

    Other stations are Atherton, Bryn, Gathurst, Hindley, Ince, Orrell, and Pemberton.There is also a long running campaign for Golborne to have a train station.

    Leigh is the largest town in the UK whitout a railway station. One station, on the Bolton and Leigh Railway, closed in 1954. The second, on a loop of the Manchester to Wigan Line was closed in 1969.

    The Leeds and Liverpool Canal passes through the borough, as does the M6 motorway, which runs through the west of the borough, and serves Ashton-in-Makerfield (junction 24 north only), Bryn (25 south only), Wigan/Orrell (26) and Standish (27). The M58 motorway, to northern Liverpool, terminates at junction 26 of the M6.


    Wigan was twinned with Angers in France in 1988.

    See also




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