Behaviour record given top billing

Donna Hall, Wigan Council Chief Executive
Donna Hall, Wigan Council Chief Executive

COUNCIL bosses will adopt a name and shame policy to keep Wigan residents informed on the behaviour of elected members.

Following some recent high-profile cases, chief executive Donna Hall said the local authority has decided to make standards issues “more easily accessible and visible” on its website.

And so all code breaches and imposed sanctions will be listed alongside councillor contact details and attendance records.

Ms Hall said: “We’re lucky to have some fantastic councillors who work hard for their communities and are committed to making the borough a better place.

“However, we’ve had a number of recent standard issues that have shocked the public.

“There are some councillors who persistently abuse their position and we’ve had to take action against them.

“Now any standards issue involving a councillor will be clearly listed with the councillor’s online entry.

“This will allow voters to check their representative’s behaviour.”

Standards reports were already published online but on a different section of the website.

Councillors this week voted through a motion calling for the resignation of Coun Robert Bleakley because of repeated standards breaches.

The chamber will also lobby local government minister Eric Pickles for the right to recall elected members at any time during the election cycle.

Other notable breaches this year include Coun Gareth Fairhurst being adjudged to have branded Ms Hall a liar and politically biased.

Coun Fairhurst has now called for a judicial review and is disputing the committee’s findings.

It also came to light this year that former Mayor Coun Billy Rotherham was found to have breached the code having forwarded an email to his son who was representing one of two rival bids to take over a redundant council building.

Coun Rotherham said: “It was not my intention to breach any confidentiality. However, I accept that I have done this inadvertently and I apologise for any offence I may have caused.”

Coun Bleakley, who has recently left the Wigan Independents Group, has faced three standards committee hearings this year.

They related to forging a council officer’s email, accessing pornographic material on his council laptop and racking up a £2,400 bill calling premium rate sex chat lines and sending sexist and discriminatory messages.

He has maintained he is the victim of a council led smear campaign.

Ms Hall added: “Our powers to act are extremely limited following a change in the law.

“So we want to cast light onto the bad behaviour of a small of our councillors in the hope that it will persuade them to behave and the public will apply pressure on them.”