Wigan – Covid-19 recovery in a post-industrial town

Breakout session: 3.15pm

Behind the plaudits for the “Preston model” lies a fundamental truth about community wealth building: there is no one way to do it. The power of the approach lies in its flexibility to local context and conditions. In these breakout sessions we will delve into the experience of places – who are at different stages in their community wealth building “journey”, in rural and urban contexts, with different challenges and enablers – to draw out the lessons that can be applied to your place.

Wigan sits at the boundary of Greater Manchester and Merseyside, with excellent national transport connections, a number of large national businesses have significant bases in the borough. However, pay levels remain low, with average wages being the fifth lowest in the country. The Council developed the award-winning Wigan Deal as a model for public service transformation which re–imagined the role of the Council as a facilitator of ideas emerging from the local community. In 2018 the Council recognised the persistence of deprivation in the Borough and, inspired by the economically transformative potential of community wealth building, approached CLES to help develop a new iteration of the Deal, with the building of an inclusive economy at its heart.

In September 2020, in light of Covid-19, the Council recognised that the need to create a fairer and more equal local economy has become even more acute and launched a vision and principles document for making community wealth building a central tenant of its recovery plans. This work represents a disruptive quantum leap: a new municipalist council using community power to affect change within the commercial economy.

This session will be useful for anyone interested in how community wealth building can be put at the heart of Covid-19 recovery processes, how community power can be harnessed to reshape the ownership of local economies and economic approaches in post-industrial towns.


Cllr Keith Cunliffe, Deputy Leader, Wigan Council

Keith is the Deputy Leader of Wigan Council and has held the Portfolio for Health and Adult Social Care since 2008, he is also Joint Chair of the Health and Wellbeing Board. He provided the political lead to the transformation of Adult Social Care in the borough, embedding The Wigan Deal, an asset based approach leading cultural change, across the organisation. As a Local Government Association Member Peer he has conducted Peer Reviews, mentored in a number of authorities across the country, and has facilitated various workshops related to Health and Social Care.

As National Chair of the Industrial Communities Alliance he has been the UK Speaker at a number of European conferences on “The Economic Regeneration of former Coalfield Areas” Professionally Keith is a former Mental Health Nurse and held senior positions up to Director level in the NHS.

Andrea Glasspell, Service Manager Adult Social Care & Health, Wigan Council

Andrea is an Enhanced Service Manager at Wigan Council and has worked in Adult Social Care and Health since 1995, working for over 15 years in the charitable sector delivering support services for people with disabilities, before moving into local government to support and develop a wide range of care services from a leadership, commissioning and market shaping perspective. Andrea is passionate about consciously codesigning and delivering local care and support services which are anchored in asset based approaches and The Wigan Deal, working proactively with partners to design a landscape where small and medium sized local care providers can develop, grow and thrive in Wigans care market.

Andrea and her team developed Wigan’s Ethical Framework as a key commissioning tool to transform local care markets and build community wealth and they are continuing to drive community wealth building through commissioning and the continued reshaping of other significant markets area including Wigan’s supported living and day support markets.

Dave Baxter, Principle Director, Abram Ward Community Co-operative

Dave is the Founder of Abram Ward Community Co-operative, a registered charity, supporting the growth of Abram Ward in Wigan. Abram Ward have been funded up to £1m by Power To Change to empower Abram ward as a place to grow community businesses with the aim to reduce inequality and poverty. To support Dave created the brand ‘Made in Wigan’, a make and buy local initiative. We are also developing a Neighbourhood Plan, and key to this is Community Economic Development, and the use of our Open Spaces to support this. To achieve these, we work in partnership with local schools, voluntary, community and social enterprises, plus community hubs within Abram Ward.

Eleanor Radcliffe, Researcher, CLES

Ellie’s role at CLES builds on her diverse experience across the third sector, with a career rooted in a passion for social justice. Ellie delivers research, membership, policy and consultancy work at CLES, and has particular interests in co-production, housing and community activism. She is an experienced facilitator and her work in housing and homelessness included applying learning from her research and involving people with lived experience in decision making processes.

Return to the programme  →