Budget Aftermath: Wigan won't be doffing caps for Brown

THE FRONT page of yesterday's Wigan Evening Post had two stories. One headline said "Chiefs hail Budget boost to area" while the one next to it ran: "Bombshell as 40 more jobs axed at factory".

That, in a way, sums up the mood in this town which has, to a large extent thanks to George Orwell, become synonymous with northern deprivation and grim poverty. Speaking on Radio 2's Jimmy Young Show yesterday, Gordon Brown repeatedly chanted the populist mantra that his was a "Budget to encourage enterprise and initiative". In Wigan, they will say that they're doing precisely what the Chancellor wants, but has this latest Budget been good for Wigan?

At the bright and airy building of the Enterprise Centre, where local government and private business have been attempting, with some degree of success, to bring in more jobs, the view is that the steps are in the right direction.

Adrian Hardy, the head of economic development at the centre and Peter Morton, the business services director for Business Link between Wigan borough and commerce, reel off figures for jobs created and local businesses making good.

The unemployment rate, more than 10 per cent 15 years ago, is now just over 5 per cent and the population has grown by 10,000 in the past three decades to just under 310,000. "The devil is in the detail," said Mr Hardy, "but overall we like the breaks being given for investment." Mr Morton agrees: "Of course, one can always say we would have liked more, but I agree with the basic approach."

A few minutes' walk from the glass and steel of the Enterprise Centre stands The Indestructible Ventilating Fan, built by Walker Brothers for Sutton Manor Colliery and state of the art at the time - 1910.

"That was a real piece of engineering," said Joe Wilson, a retired colliery man now in his eighties, out walking with his 74-year-old wife, Jean. "It still looks good, doesn't it? But that's all finished now."

What did they think of the Budget? Mrs Wilson said resolutely: "There's nowt in it for us. I've been a Labour supporter all my life but this new lot don't know much about the working classes, do they? I mean, what does your Tony Blair know about the working classes?"

John Winnard, who employs 30 people at William Santus, famous for their Uncle Joe's Mint Balls, said he was sceptical about whether the Budget would have a significant impact on his company. "They are giving with one hand and taking away with the other," he said.

David Page is the managing director of Patak's, an Indian food manufacturer with a turnover of pounds 45m. Mr Page said: "Things are progressing in Wigan, there is a desire among both the borough and business to make this place a success. The Budget, like New Labour, is very well packaged but frankly I don't see any real action to help small or medium-sized businesses.''

Susan Dean, 41, has two children and a husband who is unemployed. "Gordon Brown could have done a lot more," she said. "He keeps going on about how well the economy is doing, but ordinary people aren't really seeing much of that. The north has been badly neglected. I'm not blaming this Government for that, it wasThatcher who did the worst damage, but we expect them to try and make up for that.

"But there is still this stereotyping of the north and Wigan in particular, with all that Road to Wigan Pier nonsense."

George Orwell appears to be a uniting factor among many in Wigan. Peter Morton feels Orwell's portrait of the town "is simply unfair" and unnecessary baggage to have to carry.

The tourist information centre's Discover Wigan Borough leaflet stresses: "The new and revitalised Wigan is a far cry from the cloth cap image portrayed by Orwell on his infamous Road to Wigan Pier."

Mrs Dean's analysis is even simpler: "George Orwell wasn't a northerner at all, he was from the south."

Points of

Interest

WITH A population of 310,000, Wigan is England's 12th-largest metropolitan borough. About 90,000 people live in the town itself.

The borough has an unemployment rate of 4.7 per cent. The rate for males of 6.2 per cent is slightly above the national average.

Since the demise of the coal and cotton industries the main employers are manufacturing, light engineering and food production companies. Heinz, one of the biggest employers, has 1,700 staff. Tourism is also an important industry, largely because of Wigan Pier.

Businesses are attracted by road communications. Wigan is surrounded by motorways.

Wigan is a Conservative-free zone. All four MPs with constituencies in the borough are Labour.

There are 83,000 owner-occupiers and 28,000 council tenants in Wigan.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksNow available in paperback
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Sales Apprenticeships

£10000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an outstanding opportunity for 1...

h2 Recruit Ltd: Business Development Manager-Alcohol-OTE £90,000

£25000 - £50000 per annum + £50,000 OTE + Car, Mobile, Benefits: h2 Recruit Lt...

Recruitment Genius: Customer Service Advisor

£23200 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity to join ...

Austen Lloyd: Company Secretary

Excellent Package: Austen Lloyd: EAST ANGLIA - SENIOR SOLICITOR LEVEL ROLE** -...

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: ‘We give them hope. They come to us when no one else can help’

Christmas Appeal

Meet the charity giving homeless veterans hope – and who they turn to when no one else can help
Should doctors and patients learn to plan humane, happier endings rather than trying to prolong life?

Is it always right to try to prolong life?

Most of us would prefer to die in our own beds, with our families beside us. But, as a GP, Margaret McCartney sees too many end their days in a medicalised battle
Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night - is that what it takes for women to get to the top?

What does it take for women to get to the top?

Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night and told women they had to do more if they wanted to get on
Christmas jumper craze: Inside the UK factory behind this year's multicultural must-have

Knitting pretty: British Christmas Jumpers

Simmy Richman visits Jack Masters, the company behind this year's multicultural must-have
French chefs have launched a campaign to end violence in kitchens - should British restaurants follow suit?

French chefs campaign against bullying

A group of top chefs signed a manifesto against violence in kitchens following the sacking of a chef at a Paris restaurant for scalding his kitchen assistant with a white-hot spoon
Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour War and Peace on New Year's Day as Controller warns of cuts

Just what you need on a New Year hangover...

Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour adaptation of War and Peace on first day of 2015
Cuba set to stage its first US musical in 50 years

Cuba to stage first US musical in 50 years

Claire Allfree finds out if the new production of Rent will hit the right note in Havana
Christmas 2014: 10 best educational toys

Learn and play: 10 best educational toys

Of course you want them to have fun, but even better if they can learn at the same time
Paul Scholes column: I like Brendan Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season

Paul Scholes column

I like Brendan Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season
Lewis Moody column: Stuart Lancaster has made all the right calls – now England must deliver

Lewis Moody: Lancaster has made all the right calls – now England must deliver

So what must the red-rose do differently? They have to take the points on offer 
Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

It's in all our interests to look after servicemen and women who fall on hard times, say party leaders
Millionaire Sol Campbell wades into wealthy backlash against Labour's mansion tax

Sol Campbell cries foul at Labour's mansion tax

The former England defender joins Myleene Klass, Griff Rhys Jones and Melvyn Bragg in criticising proposals
Nicolas Sarkozy returns: The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?

Sarkozy returns

The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?
Is the criticism of Ed Miliband a coded form of anti-Semitism?

Is the criticism of Miliband anti-Semitic?

Attacks on the Labour leader have coalesced around a sense that he is different, weird, a man apart. But is the criticism more sinister?
Ouija boards are the must-have gift this Christmas, fuelled by a schlock horror film

Ouija boards are the must-have festive gift

Simon Usborne explores the appeal - and mysteries - of a century-old parlour game