A COUNCILLOR dramatically quit the Metro’s Independent Group, changing the balancing of power on Wigan Council.
Bob Brierley (Hindley Green) made the surprise announcement in a row over representation on the council’s select committees plus claims about his attendance at meetings.
The decision ends the Independents’ legal claim to be the official town hall opposition to Labour and now means the group shares the title with the Conservatives.
It will also add extra spice to next month’s Wigan Central by-election triggered by the resignation of long-standing Tory Henry Cadman following a stroke.
If the Conservatives hold the seat it will give them the role of Opposition outright, which has a significant effect on their ability to place councillors on key committees and outside bodies.
Coun Brierley, who prides himself on being an outspoken “have a go, hands on councillor of the people” will continue as an independent without affiliation.
Three candidates – Conservative Robin Gibson, Lawrence Hunt (Labour), Gareth Fairhurst (Wigan Independent Conservatives) and former University Lecturer Keith Jones (UKIP) – have already been declared.
He said: “Over the last five months I have watched my best friend die of cancer which has been thrown in my face regarding politics within the independent group’s members
“It was this person who asked me to stand, knowing I took pleasure in helping people who needed help, but politics in the Independent Group is about money and power.
“I was late at the last full council meeting due to making funeral arrangements and comments made with the Independent Group that it was a ‘disgrace that I came at such a late hour’ were themselves a disgrace because nobody had the courtesy to even ask why.”
In a statement, the Independent Group on the Metro would only say: “We wish Coun Bob Brierley all the best in his future career as a Wigan Metro councillor.”
The fellow opposition Community Action Party group has also stepped into the row which has triggered March 3 Wigan Central Ward by-election.
Leader Coun Paul Tushingham is unhappy about the treatment of Coun Cadman who was forced to resign due to his continuing battle to recover his health.
He had unsuccessfully asked the full council meeting for a further four months grace to continue his recuperation, even offering to give up his cash allowance for the duration.
However the eventual winner will only serve to the end of Mr Cadman’s term of office, in May 2012.
Coun Tushingham said: “I must say that I was disappointed that the majority of other councillors didn’t show any support to Henry in allowing him the few months grace he sought to remain in office.”