My Council is a campaign to highlight council action in the areas that residents say matter to them, such as improving customer service and demonstrating value for money. At the heart of the campaign are scores of unsung heroes – council workers and people from the local community. Borough Life went to meet some of the stars of the new advertising drive that will run on billboards and in newspapers across the borough over the next six months.
Involving staff and services from around the authority, the ‘My council’ campaign will highlight council action in the areas that really matter to residents, such as improving customer service and delivery, and demonstrating value for money across the board.
Cllr Chris Ready, cabinet champion for communications, said: “All too often residents don’t make the connection between the 700 or so services we provide and the council tax they shell out every month.
“It’s up to us to make those connections – to take information about key services and issues to our residents in a way that they can easily relate to.
“That’s why we’re putting local people and council workers at the centre of the campaign.”
Using all kinds of media from billboards to buses to our own Borough Life, the campaign aims to show council action in key areas for residents, such as refuse collection and community clean-ups, economy and employment, and education and skills. It will also throw the spotlight on lesser-known services delivered by legions of unsung heroes.
“Genuine action and engagement, quality services and value for money” insisted Cllr Ready, “are the keys to improving satisfaction with the council.”
There are several phases to the six month-long campaign, including: access to services, the street scene, local democracy, community cohesion, transforming social care and family services.
My council... my vote
Mike Kirkby and Jack Swift
“The way I look at it is this,” says Jack Swift from Leigh. “Millions have risked and given their lives for people to have freedom and the right to choose who will govern them – and still are doing today. Not to use that vote would mean their sacrifices were in vain.”
Jack should know. RAF service as a flight mechanic in World War Two saw him awarded the distinguished Burma Star for his engineering work in support of the forces in the Far East. And now at 84, he is as passionate as ever about supporting fellow veterans and fostering good community spirit through many years’ voluntary work.
Jack’s friend Mike Kirkby is 45 years his junior. Mike saw action in the Gulf in 1991 on the Iraq border, driving ammunition supplies through the desert. Both men are rightly proud of their service and say that it’s essential for everyone to get out there on polling day. “Democracy is precious,” says Mike, “and no one should take it for granted.”
“I’m proud to say that I have never failed to use my entitlement to vote,” adds Jack. “I would ask everyone – choose wisely – and please use your vote.”
The last date for making sure you can vote in the local elections on 6 May is Tuesday 20 April. And that also goes for the general election if it takes place on the same day as the local contest.
So if you want to be sure of your vote visit Wigan Council (external link) and click E for elections on the A-Z of services, or phone the helpline on 01942 827168.
My council... helps me grow my own
Steve Brodrick hails from Lowton and has been a member of Golborne Allotment Association for five years. He’s on the committee and believes it’s good to ‘chill out’ and grow your own veg.
He says: “We even have a bit of spare land for some battery hens rescued by a welfare trust. They give us enough eggs for ourselves and some to sell on as well.”
Last summer the association worked with the council’s In Bloom team and the visit from the Northwest in Bloom judges helped the borough win more awards than ever before.
Says Steve: “There are lots of groups like ours doing our bit and it’s good to be part of a bigger initiative. The council help us with funding bids, which have enabled us to buy fencing and a communal polytunnel where we can grow vegetables.
“It’s used by older people from Broadmead day centre, helping them to learn more about their environment and sustainability and we’re looking to work with schools as well. Getting support gives us an incentive to do more and we want to carry on working alongside the council.”
Last year Steve helped promote free swimming for all when he was a coach at Howe Bridge sports centre. As this modest but public-spirited man puts it: “I like to give a bit back for the community and help others to do something positive, so it’s not all take.”
Local and friendly team listens to your concerns
Ring the council’s main switchboard and one of the voices you might hear is that of Amanda. Like her colleagues, she’s local and friendly, and one of a small team who deal with over 7000 calls each week.
“I’ve been answering calls in Wigan for nearly fifteen years,” says Amanda, “Every day is different. I really take pride in being able to help people or give them a contact if it’s not a council service.” There are specialist call centres for services like environmental services, benefits and housing but the main ‘town hall switchboard’ – actually in Wigan’s Civic Centre – takes the widest range of calls from the public.
“Some people are surprised that there’s a real voice to talk to,” Amanda smiles. “And we’re genuine and respectful no matter who calls and what their concerns are.”
The switchboard team’s message is that the council is there to serve anyone across the borough – as well as interest from business and visitors from further afield. The call could be about anything, so before picking up the phone, they have to know how to advise on the 700 plus services provided by the council.
The team is dubbed ‘the oracle’ for coming up with goods in response to some often unusual queries. Amanda says: “One lady called and said ‘Can I have a permit to take my mum to the tip?’. Another rang up worried – ‘I have just seen a rat taking the kids to school.’
There are plenty of fun examples, but the team are proud to be able to help people in genuine distress, with tricky problems or just not sure who else to call.
Most of the callers Amanda and her team speak to are nice and friendly. She adds: “The council is working hard to make access to services easier, with new local advice centres and better online information.
“But the phone is the communications method of choice for many and we do our best to make it a positive experience.”
My council... helped me get a job
“I love working for the council,” says Adam Burgess of Standish Lower Ground. Now 22, Adam gained an apprenticeship with Wigan Council five years ago, starting with admin duties on a sheltered housing scheme.
Guided by mentors in the council’s supported employment service, Adam then went on to work directly with the public each day on the repairs team, and then in one of the council’s contact centres, answering the phone and meeting and greeting people at reception.
Confidence is a big issue for Adam, and he says that working for the council has really helped him. “I have learned lots of new skills as well,” he adds.
Last summer, he worked with the council’s media and communications team in the town hall, contributing to publicity posters – and even appearing in one!
Adam is now settled and thoroughly enjoying working at the council’s depot in Hindley, dealing with admin issues for the cleansing team.
“Finding employment is hard for anyone in the current climate,” Adam says. “But for people with extra needs, then the council’s supported employment service can really help you just like they have helped me.”
Contact supported employment on 01942 828439.