Controversial councillor demands return of his iPad

Coun Bob Brierley with his iPad
Coun Bob Brierley with his iPad

Opposition councillors are locked in dispute with the town hall over the confiscation of a controversial colleague’s council equipment.

The Wigan Independents group claims outspoken Hindley Green ward representative Coun Bob Brierley should have had the iPad, given out to councillors by the local authority, returned to him.

Wigan Council withdrew Coun Brierley’s tablet following a series of complaints about his behaviour towards staff and he was given a further sanction in that his emails would be screened.

The independents say group leader Coun Debbie Fairhurst brokered an arrangement with the authority which meant it would be restored if his behaviour improved.

However, a war of words has now broken out, with Coun Fairhurst claiming Coun Brierley has stuck to the terms of the agreement and accusing the council of going back on the deal.

But the town hall says there has been no improvement in Coun Brierley’s behaviour and it was entirely appropriate for them to keep the communications device.

Coun Brierley, who has been involved in several long-running disputes with senior council officers and in particular chief executive Donna Hall, accused the local authority of impeding him in his duties as an elected representative.

He said: “Wigan Council and Donna Hall are trying to stop me getting emails from residents to allow me to do my job, which is to serve the residents of Hindley Green.

“I will stop them meddling in my duties. After all, I was elected by the residents of Hindley Green and Wigan Council need to respect this and get over it.

“I will continue to serve the residents. I urge residents to phone or email me.”

However, Wigan Council said this was completely untrue and Coun Brierley still had full access to his emails.

Coun Brierley has now bought his own personal iPad and set up another email address.

The independent group says the meeting with council leaders set a deadline for Coun Brierley’s behaviour to improve and he agreed he would change his ways despite believing he had done little wrong.

Coun Fairhurst claims the council told her at the first deadline that the situation was getting better and is now unhappy that Coun Brierley’s iPad has not been handed back.

The town hall, though, firmly disputed this and said there had been little evidence of improved attitudes towards employees.

The local authority also defended its policy of placing Coun Brierley’s emails into a holding account so they can be scanned for unacceptable content before being relayed to the intended recipient.

Brendan Whitworth, assistant director for legal services at Wigan Council, said: “Following a breach of the council’s IT policy, Coun Brierley’s iPad was withdrawn in accordance with that policy.

“Despite encouragement, Coun Brierley’s behaviour has not improved and there have been repeated abusive messages, phone calls and emails from Coun Brierley.

“Additionally any emails are sent via a managed mailbox in accordance with sanctions imposed by the Standards Committee following breaches by Coun Brierley of the Member’s Code of Conduct. This is entirely legitimate and appropriate.“

Coun Brierley is standing as an independent in the Makerfield election. The other candidates are Yvonne Fovargue (Lab), Adam Carney (Cons), John Skipworth (Lib Dem).