Metropolitan Borough of Wigan

Metropolitan Borough of Wigan
Metropolitan Borough of Wigan
—  Metropolitan borough  —
Wigan Civic Centre

Coat of Arms of the Metropolitan Borough of Wigan Council
Motto: "Progress With Unity"
Wigan shown within England
Coordinates: 53°32′N 2°37′W / 53.533°N 2.617°W / 53.533; -2.617Coordinates: 53°32′N 2°37′W / 53.533°N 2.617°W / 53.533; -2.617
Sovereign state United Kingdom
Constituent country England
Region North West England
Ceremonial county Greater Manchester
Admin HQ Wigan (Civic Centre)
Founded 1 April 1974
Borough status
 - Type Metropolitan borough
 - Governing body Wigan Metropolitan Borough Council
 - Mayor Coun Joy Birch (Labour)
 - MPs: Andy Burnham (L)
Julie Hilling (L)
Lisa Nandy (L)
Yvonne Fovargue (L)
 - Total 72.7 sq mi (188.19 km2)
Population (2010 est.)
 - Total 307,600 (Ranked 23rd)
 - Ethnicity
(United Kingdom estimate 2005)[1]
97.5% White
1.1% S. Asian or mixed
Time zone Greenwich Mean Time (UTC+0)
Postcode areas WN1-7, M28,M29,M46, WA3
Area code(s) 01942 /01695/ 0161 / 01257
ISO 3166-2 GB-WGN
ONS code 00BW
OS grid reference SD583055

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 and also 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.



Wigan metropolitan borough was created on 1 April 1974 by the Local Government Act 1972. It was formed from the former county borough of Wigan along with other local government units from the administrative county of Lancashire.[2][3] These were the Municipal Borough of Leigh, the urban districts of Abram, Aspull, Atherton, Hindley, Ince-in-Makerfield, Orrell, Standish and Tyldesley. Ashton-in-Makerfield, the Golborne Urban District except for the parish of Culcheth and Glazebury in Warrington, the Higher End part of Billinge and Winstanley Urban District and the civil parishes of Haigh, Shevington and Worthington from the Wigan Rural District were included.

Before its creation, the name Wigan-Leigh was used in the Redcliffe-Maud Report. It was suggested that the new metropolitan borough be named Makerfield. However both names were rejected by a vote of 12 to 2.[4] According to an opinion poll in 2003, 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.[5]

The metropolitan borough was created from a highly industrialised area of Lancashire that was part of the Lancashire Coalfield and had an important textile industry.


Wigan borough covers an area of 77 square miles (200 km2) and is the 9th largest metropolitan borough, out of 36, in England. 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.

Wigan has four Local Nature Reserves: Borsdane Wood between Hindley and Aspull, Orrell Water Park in Orrell, Wigan Flashes and Low Hall Park at Platt Bridge.[6]


Local government

See also: Mayor of Wigan and Mayoress of Wigan

For the first 12 years after the county was created in 1974, the borough had a two-tier system of local government, and Wigan Council shared power with the Greater Manchester County Council. The county council was abolished in 1986 by the Local Government Act 1985. In April 2011 however, the Greater Manchester Combined Authority became the top tier of local government within Greater Manchester covering all 10 borough including Wigan.

The first elections to the borough council were held on 10 May 1973.[7] The Metropolitan Borough Council is divided into 25 wards, each of which elects three councillors. Elections are by third, with one councillor from each ward up for re-election in each election year.[2] 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 became leader in 1991.[8] The council rejected the idea of a directly-elected mayor following a consultation in 2001.[9]

The Metropolitan Borough of Wigan is traditionally a Labour stronghold - the council has been Labour Party-controlled since its creation.[10] The local elections in 1998 resulted in a council with only 2 non-Labour members.

Labour had a majority with 43 seats at the 2006 election. The second largest party on the council was 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 had nine seats, and the Liberal Democrats eight.[10][11]

At the 2008 elections Labour was the largest party with 41 seats out of a total of 75, the Conservative Party had 14 seats, Community Action Party 8 seats, Independent 7 seats, Liberal Democrats 4 seats and one was vacant.[12]

As of November 2010 (after May elections), Labour is the largest party with 51 seats out of a total of 75, the Conservative Party with 8 seats, 7 Independent, Community Action Party with 4 seats and Liberal Democrats with 3 seats (1 member currently suspended) [13] and the 'Independent Conservative' members with 2 seats.

As of June 2011 (after May elections), Labour continue to be the largest party with 58 seats out of a total of 75, the Independent Councillor group with 8 seats form the Official Opposition, the Conservative Party have 5 seats, the Liberal Democrats hold 2 seats, Community Action Party hold 1 seat and 1 Independent Councillor. [14]

The council uses Wigan Town Hall as its main headquarters.[15] Leigh Town Hall is used as a secondary base.[16]

Townships and wards

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.[17][18] Wigan Council has divided the borough into ten areas by the name of townships, with a Township Manager and a Township Forum each.[19]

Townships 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;
Standish / Aspull / Shevington Aspull-New Springs-Whelley; Shevington with Lower Ground; Standish with Langtree
Tyldesley / Astley Astley-Mosley Common; Tyldesley
Wigan North Ince-in-Makerfield; Wigan Central; Wigan West
Wigan South Douglas; Pemberton; Worsley Mesnes


The borough has three civil parishes: Haigh, Shevington and Worthington. The rest of the borough is an unparished area. Ecclesiastical parishes in the west of the borough are part of the Anglican Diocese of Liverpool and the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Liverpool, Anglican parishes in the east of the Metropolitan Borough are part of the Diocese of Manchester and the northern section part of the Diocese of Blackburn.


The Wigan Metropolitan Borough is currently covered by four parliamentary constituencies, Wigan, Makerfield, Leigh, and Bolton West.(Atherton is the only Wigan ward included in Bolton West, with the rest of the constituency made up of districts from Bolton Borough). New constituency boundaries recommended by the Boundary Commission for the 2010 UK election saw the link to Salford broken by the removal of Wigan areas from the Worsley constituency. This resulted in the previous Worsley Constituency wards of Tyldesley and Astley-Mosley Common being placed in the Leigh Constituency with the Atherton ward going to Bolton West.[20] Makerfield is the only constituency to have returned Labour MPs continuously since 1906.[21]

Coat of arms

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


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 ethnic minority populations, with the 2001 census reporting 98.7% of the population as White. Unemployment is around average for England and Wales. Approximately 9.5% of the population is "permanently sick or disabled" compared to an average of 5.5%.[22]

Population change

The table below details the population change since 1801, including the percentage change since the last available census data. Although the Metropolitan Borough of Wigan has only existed 1974, figures have been generated by combining data from the towns, villages, and civil parishes that would later be constituent parts of the borough.

Population growth in Wigan since 1801
Year 1801 1811 1821 1831 1841 1851 1861 1871 1881 1891 1901 1911 1921 1931 1941 1951 1961 1971 1981 1991 2001
Population 41,413 50,464 60,760 69,400 78,349 93,271 120,001 146,732 173,462 212,665 239,399 269,503 267,754 266,040 266,436 266,839 284,309 302,929 307,721 310,866 301,415
 % change +21.9 +20.4 +14.2 +12.9 +19.0 +28.7 +22.3 +18.2 +22.6 +12.6 +12.6 −0.6 −0.6 +0.1 +0.2 +6.5 +6.5 +1.6 +1.0 −3.0
Source: Vision of Britain[23]

The population of the borough has remained roughly static since the 1970s at around 300,000, second only to Manchester within Greater Manchester.[24]

The ONS identify a Wigan Urban Area as being the west of the district, including Skelmersdale and Upholland in West Lancashire, with a population of 166,840. It considers 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. However the entirety of the Borough forms part of the Manchester Larger Urban Zone[25]


Public transport in Wigan MBC is co-ordinated by Transport for Greater Manchester (TfGM). The borough is served by an extensive bus network with most services operated by First Manchester, Arriva North West and South Lancs Travel. Wigan town centre is the main hub of the bus network in the borough with a large bus station. Leigh is a secondary hub also with a bus station. Frequent services operate from the two bus stations to Bolton, Manchester, The Trafford Centre, St Helens and Chorley, as well as local inter-urban routes, with 3 high frequency services between Wigan and Leigh bus stations, operated by First Manchester. Several railway lines cross the borough. Wigan Wallgate railway station is served by Northern trains on the Manchester to Southport and Kirkby lines. There are services to all stations towards Manchester, serving all city centre stations including the 2 major stations, Manchester Victoria and Manchester Piccadilly via 2 routes: 1 through Bolton and one via Atherton, with connections there to other local and national destinations.[26] Wigan North Western railway station is on the West Coast Mainline served by Northern and Virgin Trains. There are services to Liverpool Lime Street, Blackpool North, London Euston, Birmingham, Glasgow and Edinburgh.[27] Other stations in the borough are Atherton, Hag Fold, Bryn (serving Ashton in Makerfield), Gathurst (serving Shevington), Hindley, Ince, Orrell, and Pemberton. Appley Bridge railway station lies just outside Wigan at the border with West Lancashire, it is manged by TfGM and serves the far north-western area of Wigan Borough. There is also a long running campaign for Golborne railway station to be re-opened.

Leigh is one of the largest towns in the UK without a railway station. Westleigh station, on the Bolton and Leigh Railway, closed in 1954.[28] Leigh and Tyldesley stations on a loop of the Manchester to Wigan Line, were closed in 1969.[29] There are proposals to use the line of the railway via Tyldesley towards Manchester as a guided busway[30] but this not universally popular.[31]

The Leeds and Liverpool and Bridgewater canals pass through the borough, as does the M6 motorway, which crosses the west of the borough, and serves Ashton-in-Makerfield at junctions 23 and 24 (north only) and 25 (south only), Wigan at junction 25 (south only), Wigan/Orrell at junction 26 and Standish junction 27. The M58 motorway, to northern Liverpool, terminates at junction 26 of the M6 near Orrell. The dual carriageway A580 East Lancashire Road linking Liverpool to Manchester crosses the south of the borough.


The Metropolitan Borough of Wigan has one twin town in France.[32]

Country Place County / District / Region / State Originally twinned with Date
France France Blason d'Angers.svg Angers Pays-de-la-Loire flag.svg Pays de la Loire Metropolitan Borough of Wigan 1988

See also

  • Wigan Council election 1998
  • Wigan Council election 2000
  • Wigan Council election 2002
  • Wigan Council election 2003
  • Wigan Council election 2004
  • Wigan Borough F.C.



  1. ^ Check Browser Settings
  2. ^ a b Local Government Act 1972. 1972 c. 60. HMSO. 
  3. ^ Local Government (Successor Parishes) Order 1973. 1973/1110. HMSO. 
  4. ^ Clark 1973, p. 101.
  5. ^ "MORI local government and identity opinion poll December 2003 - February 2004" (PDF). The Boundary Committee for England. Retrieved 2007-02-11. 
  6. ^ "Fourth Local Nature Reserve Opens". Wigan Leisure and Culture Trust. Retrieved 3 February 2011. 
  7. ^ "Three major parties find cause for satisfaction in local election results despite low poll". The Times. 1973-05-12. 
  8. ^ "Constitution: Part 9". Wigan Metropolitan Borough Council. 
  9. ^ "Borough rejects elected mayor" (Press release). Wigan Metropolitan Borough Council. 2001-06-15. Retrieved 2001-06-15. 
  10. ^ a b "Local elections: Wigan". London: BBC News. 2006-05-04. Retrieved 2007-02-11. 
  11. ^ "Labour licks wounds after polls". London: BBC News. 2004-06-11. Retrieved 2004-06-11. 
  12. ^ Summary of seats 2008. Wigan MBC. Retrieved 2010-03-01 
  13. ^
  14. ^
  15. ^ "21st century Town Hall" (Press release). Wigan Metropolitan Borough Council. 2006-08-07. Retrieved 2007-02-11. 
  16. ^ "Makeover for Leigh Town Hall" (Press release). 2006-06-13. Retrieved 2007-02-11. 
  17. ^ (PDF) Final recommendations on the future electoral arrangements for Wigan. Boundary Committee. September 2003. Retrieved 2007-02-11. 
  18. ^ "New Wigan Wards Map". Wigan Metropolitan Borough Council. 
  19. ^ "Townships". Wigan Metropolitan Borough Council. Retrieved 2006-11-06. 
  20. ^ "Greater Manchester: New Constituency Boundaries". Martin Baxter. Retrieved 2007-02-11. 
  21. ^ "Safe Seats analysis". Electoral Reform Society. 2005-04-28. Retrieved 2007-02-11. 
  22. ^ "Census 2001 - Profiles - Wigan". Office for National Statistics. Retrieved 2007-02-11. 
  23. ^ "Wigan District: total population". Vision of Britain.  Retrieved on 20 December 2008.
  24. ^ "Wigan District population". Vision of Britain. University of Portsmouth. Retrieved 2007-02-11. 
  25. ^ "Table KS01 Usual Resident population" (XLS (Excel spreadsheet)). Office for National Statistics. Retrieved 2007-02-11. 
  26. ^ Wigan Wallgate. National Rail. Retrieved 2010-03-01 
  27. ^ Wigan North Western. National Rail. Retrieved 2010-03-01 
  28. ^ "WestLeigh Station". Disused Stations (Subterranea Britanica). Retrieved 2010-03-01 [dead link]
  29. ^ "Pennington Station". Disused Stations. Subterranea Britanica. Retrieved 2007-02-11. 
  30. ^ "Leigh Salford Manchester Busway Project". Retrieved 2009-09-29 
  31. ^ Busway, off the rails. Leigh Journal. Retrieved 2009-09-29 
  32. ^ "Town Twinning". Wigan Metropolitan Borough Council. Retrieved 2007-02-11. 


  • Clark, David M. (1973). Greater Manchester Votes: A Guide to the New Metropolitan Authorities. Redrose 

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