Angry voters echo ‘step down’ pleas

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AN under-fire councillor is facing increasing calls to step down as residents signed a petition launched at the weekend in his ward.

Voters face a two-year wait to pass judgement at the ballot box on Coun Robert Bleakley after he has taken a defiant stance to his recent scandal.

Councillor Robert Bleakley Must Go Campaign organised by Cadence Cafe CIC owner Ian Jackson on Tyldesley Market Square

Councillor Robert Bleakley Must Go Campaign organised by Cadence Cafe CIC owner Ian Jackson on Tyldesley Market Square

The deputy leader of Wigan Council Coun David Molyneux has written an open letter calling for his chamber colleague’s resignation. And MP Andy Burnham joined residents in Tyldesley on Saturday in support of the petition.

Coun Bleakley, who was found to have racked up a £2,400 bill on his council mobile calling premium rate sex lines and sending sexist messages, has said he is the victim of a “smear campaign”.

He has maintained he has received a lot of support from family, friends and work colleagues and will not resign.

Coun Molyneux said: “How a councillor, who is elected and paid for by borough residents can have the audacity to stand in front of those who elected him and carry on without a care in the world is beyond me.

“He hasn’t just brought shame on himself, but on the council, on the borough and on Tyldesley. The fact that we are stuck with him is absolutely ridiculous.”

Mr Burnham added: “This is not about party politics, it’s about the reputation of the town and the integrity of the democratic process.

“If things are left as they are, what message does that send out to the young people and women of Tyldesley?

“For everyone to move on Coun Bleakley needs to stand down. It would help everybody, him included.”

The petition calling for his resignation was launched by Ian Jackson of community interest group Cadence Cafe.

He said: “People I have spoken to say his behaviour is disgusting and rightly so.”

Coun Bleakley, who was elected in 2012, has agreed to pay the funds back through a reduction of his town hall allowance.

He told the Evening Post: “I am not sexist or misogynist. A small number of messages have been taken out of context.”

Coun Gareth Fairhurst, who is the leader of the Wigan Independent Group of which Coun Bleakley is a member, said the petition had not received much interest. He said on Twitter: “I can’t believe it, given what he has done his popularity seems to have gone up.”