Town Hall denies a witch hunt

Bob Brierley

Bob Brierley

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TOWN hall chiefs have denied mounting a witch hunt against a leading opposition figure.

Outspoken Hindley Green member Coun Bob Brierley has been cleared of bullying a church official in a dispute over the condition of the Bethel building they hire from the Metro.

It’s the second complaint made by an official of Hindley Green Community Church against engineer Coun Brierley which has gone to full investigation under the Standards procedure – and eventually been thrown out – in the last twelve months.

Now Coun Brierley is claiming that both cases against him were politically motivated and “so weak that they should not have proceeded.”

Council officials have denied any such campaign and said they were duty bound to investigate the complaint from a member of the public

However, Coun Brierley says that the council, facing £66m cuts, has now wasted “thousands of pounds” looking into the matter.

And he is concerned that the decision to put the inquiry into the hands of well known private legal firm Weightmans – rather than the council’s own 30 strong solicitor team – shows “how determined” the council were to remove him from office.

Under the legislation Coun Brierley, who faces re-election in May, could have been suspended from council duties if he had been found guilty of bullying.

He said: “I ask too many awkward questions on behalf of the people of Hindley Green and the council don’t like it.

“They are trying to stop me by all means possible.

“It was clear when the first charge against me from the church and it’s Minister was thrown out that it had been trumped up and now, a year later, we have the same thing all over again in a complete waste of time and money.

“I want to know why cases that haven’t go a leg to stand on like this are being pushed right the way up to the full investigation stage just because it is me.

“We also need to know why they spend thousands on employing a well known lawyers like Weightmans to investigate me rather than using one of the 30 odd solicitors that they have in the council’s own legal department.

“Is it because that way they hoped that they would be more sure of getting a successful result against me?”

But director of corporate services Paul McKevitt said: “The council received a complaint from a member of the public regarding Councillor Brierley.

“Like all such complaints the council is duty-bound to investigate them.

“Due to the high number of such complaints we receive we sometimes have to use external companies to investigate them and Weightman’s is one of these companies.

“Coun Brierley has been treated no differently to any other member of the authority in this regard.”

Coun Brierley was also cleared of breaking the councillors’ national Code of Conduct and bringing the council into disrepute.