Tweet-gate response ‘over-stepped the mark’

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WIGAN Council officials have been accused of “using a sledgehammer to crack a nut” after a member was thrown out after tweeting during a meeting.

Standish independent representative Gareth Fairhurst was escorted out of the Town Hall by police officers on Wednesday and has since claimed he was unfairly targeted.

Mayor Billy Rotherham told the Evening Post that the outspoken member was asked to leave “not for his tweeting but because he refused to obey the ruling of the Mayor.”

The borough’s first citizen said: “By refusing to leave, he broke the rules of the constitution which states that a member can be asked to leave if they disregard the rulings of the Mayor by behaving improperly.

“I asked members not to update their social media during the meetings to ensure that they are taking part in debate and listening to the decisions being made.

“Unfortunately Coun Fairhurst chose to ignore my advice and tweeted regardless.

“The other members therefore voted that he leave the meeting, again, he chose to ignore this decision.”

Coun Fairhurst said his treatment was “unbelievable” and part of a wider plan to silence him.

He said: “It was obviously pre-planned to get me out before the standards committee report and the issue of houses in Standish came up.

“They wanted me out no matter what. The reason I didn’t go at first is because I didn’t want to accept the decision of this ‘kangaroo court’.

“They knew I would be bringing up the recent standards investigation involving the Mayor.

“I tell my constituents that I stand up to bullies and that’s what I did.”

When Mayor Rotherham told the chamber before the meeting started that tweeting was not permitted, Coun Fairhurst was referenced for his use of Twitter during last month’s meeting.

When informed of the rule break, the Mayor interrupted the meeting and said: “I asked for you please not to tweet but you still carried on doing it.

“I have got grandchildren who don’t behave like you do. I move that you are expelled from the meeting.”

Opposition leader Gary Wilkes and a number of colleagues later left the chamber in protest.

The Wigan Independent Network leader said: “While I don’t agree with the antics of Coun Fairhurst, I felt the Mayor over-stepped the mark.

“We all must work and respect the constitution, to date it does not say member cannot tweet during a meeting.

“He took a sledgehammer to crack a nut and his actions bring the question; is this council taking a totalitarian approach to running meetings?”

The meeting was delayed for half an hour but continued with just one non-Labour member still present.

During the break, cabinet member Coun Susan Loudon updated her followers on Twitter with the chaotic events from the chamber.