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30 Most of the concerns centred around more basic matters; namely pounds and pence. “Rate Shock - 61p in the £ for New Metro” cried one local newspaper, reporting on the housing rates being set. Locals in the Merseyside part of Billinge were equally unimpressed. One said: “I have got a free bus pass but can only use it to go to St Helens or Liverpool, but not Wigan or Orrell. I can go to Southport, but only if it is via St Helens. Why could they not have joined the whole of Billinge to Wigan? To me, this is just another case of planning with no consideration for human beings.” “Local politics? They are a joke... ” Life wasn’t plain sailing for those who worked for the new councils either. Almost 8,000 workers were paid the wrong amounts in the first few weeks. Although one cleaner at Wigan Metro wasn’t too fussed - her normal wage of £2.50 shot up to £25! And even those areas which, on the face of it, weren’t massively effected, weren’t happy. At the final meeting of Orrell Urban District Council, councillors slammed the Metro as being ‘arrogant’ for wanting to tear down their Council Chamber and turn it into offices. Orrell Urban District Council’s final sitting Councillor John Fitzpatrick stormed: “Local politics? They are a joke if this is the way they are going to carry out their business.” However, Wigan’s first ever Mayor, Cllr Bob Lyons, sought to soothe divisions: “I appreciate the fears of many people that there will be a feeling of isolation and loss of contact. I would like to assure people that I and all my colleagues will be available for interview and advice. I know the new members will serve to the best of their ability.” 44 years on and it’s fair to say that, while the financial grumbles still rumble on, the sense of civic loss has grown. But perhaps it is unfair to push the blame onto those who made the 1974 decision. Since then, any new local government reorganisation plans have been mostly about making areas bigger, rather than going back to the pre-1974 model. Moreover, regardless of what area of Billinge you live, both parishes are ultimately controlled by the same ruling party (Labour) in their respective town halls. As for (since deceased) MP Gordon Oakes’ pronouncements; pigs’ innards are no longer consumed in the same quantities as it was in the early 1970s; accents have grown more fluid along with occupations, but football is still not as popular as rugby. Billinge just before it became part of Merseyside Just goes to show that MPs talking tripe isn’t a wholly new phenomenon...
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