Rising cost of investigating conduct issues

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AN unprecedented set of standards hearings investigating the “bullying” behaviour of a Wigan councillor have cost £60,000.

The release of the figures comes a week after the council announced all standards hearings over the past year have cost more than £100,000 of taxpayer’s money.

Coun Bob Brierley faced six weekly hearings which concluded this month and was found guilty each time of breaching the local authority’s code of conduct.

The outspoken independent representative for Hindley Green boycotted the proceedings claiming they were part of a campaign to undermine him.

And he has referred the verdicts for judicial review.

The costs are thought to have racked up due to the time officers have had to dedicate to the cases and fees paid to external solicitors.

Council bosses this month appealed to local government minister Eric Pickles to reinstall a right of recall so the public has a way of penalising misbehaving members.

Coun Brierley’s standards series was referenced in the letter.

As a result of the hearings, Coun Brierley has been banned from allocating funds to community projects through the council’s Brighter Borough scheme until 2016, the end of his current term.

And he courted further controversy last week and faces another standards probe over an alleged use of a swear word during a full council meeting.

In the letter to Mr Pickles MP, party leaders Lord Smith, Couns Gary Wilkes and James Grundy said: “The action of these few councillors has led to a decline in trust and confidence.

“They wear their complaints as a badge of honour.”

Coun Brierley was unavailable for comment.