Councillor needs chamber support for absence

Wigan's council chamber
Wigan's council chamber
  • Coun Robert Bleakley suffered a stroke earlier this month
  • He has not attended a council meeting since January
  • The independent member will require Labour members to grant him an authorised absence

A CONTROVERSIAL Wigan councillor will have to rely on the goodwill of his political rivals to prevent him from losing his council seat.

Coun Robert Bleakley - who is recovering after suffering a stroke earlier this month - has not attended a council meeting since January.

Coun Robert Bleakley at January's council meeting

Coun Robert Bleakley at January's council meeting

Local authority regulations state elected members must turn up to at least one meeting every six months or face being stripped of their title.

This means the independent representative would be expected to attend either Wednesday’s AGM and mayor-making meeting or the specially arranged proceedings on June 10.

But special dispensation for missing meetings due to medical conditions is only granted through chamber approval.

So Coun Bleakley will require the ruling Labour Party to vote in favour of granting him an authorised absence due to its overwhelming majority within the chamber.

At times like this party politics must go out the window

Leader of the opposition Coun James Grundy

In 2010, Labour members voted to waive the six month absence rule after the late Coun Henry Cadman suffered a stroke.

The Conservative Party member was also granted full pay during his period of convalescence as a result of the chamber vote.

However, the Labour group may not take the same view towards Coun Bleakley, who has been the subject of numerous standards investigations during his political career.

Supporters of the 44-year-old former Lib Dem councillor told the Evening Post he had been placed under “unbelievable levels of stress” by the series of local authority probes into his conduct.

As the news of his medical episode emerged, the borough’s political parties wished their colleague a “swift and full” recovery.

Leader of the opposition and Conservative member for Lowton East Coun James Grundy said: “At times like this party politics must go out of the window.”

Coun Gareth Fairhurst, leader of the Standish Independents, said: “This is sad news and our thoughts are with him and his family and we wish him a speedy recovery.”

And council leader Lord Smith said: “Obviously the Labour group would offer its best wishes and speedy recovery to Coun Bleakley.”

Coun Bleakley has defended his poor attendance record by stating he remains a hard-working councillor, performing his role “in the community, where it matters most.”

The full council will meet tomorrow with Coun Susan Loudon taking over as mayor.