Council and councillor locked in explosive dispute

Coun Bob Brierley outside Wigan town hall on his way to a council meeting
Coun Bob Brierley outside Wigan town hall on his way to a council meeting
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TOWN hall bosses and unions have launched an unprecedented attack on a Wigan councillor, branding him “bullying and aggressive.”

An explosive dispute between officials and maverick opposition councillor Bob Brierley has hit crisis point after he reported the local authority’s entire senior management team to police for alleged malpractice in office.

The executive – from chief executive Donna Hall downwards – is now threatening a group action for defamation against the Hindley Green representative.

Frustrated authority bosses, weary of the constant battle with the outspoken politician, have issued a strongly-worded statement backed by local authority union leaders, stating it was impossible to continue working with him.

Stuart Fenton of Unison said his organisation fully supported the move. He said: “I am very concerned and bewildered at the behaviour of this independent councillor. If he worked for the council he would be facing disciplinary action.”

And David Hope from GMB Union said: “I fully support Wigan Council and the actions they are taking and the union will not tolerate bullying of council staff.”

With the council leaders fighting million-pound cuts, they said they no longer “had the time to waste” on managing councillors’ bad behaviour. Their statement reads: “We need help from councillors, not hindrance.”

They say they will only reconsider their position if the 54-year-old “improves the way he operates.”

Officers have been told not to have any dealing with him until his alleged bullying and aggressive behaviour improves.

Council chiefs have already frozen his Brighter Borough Fund cash with which all elected members can financially support community causes and groups in the ward,

Coun Brierley, who describes himself as a “no-nonsense, passionate, have-a-go councillor,” claimed the threat of defamation action against him by council leaders was intended to silence him and halt his attempts to “show real corruption is going on.”

The controversial self-employed engineer is already banned from communicating directly with officers, his emails automatically routed into a town hall IT holding area, because of the allegedly abusive nature of previous communications.

Town hall accuses Coun Brierley of numerous incidents of bullying junior officers “to get his own way” and secretly recording staff without their knowledge.

He was found guilty by the former Standards Board of breaching the code of conduct in 2006 and suspended but has subsequently beat off a series of official complaints against him which he claims were “trumped-up nonsense for political purposes.”

The council statement read: “It is a real shame that Coun Brierley has not improved his behaviour despite all of our efforts to help him.

“As a result of the latest attempt to bully staff and coupled with him accusing the whole management team of a very serious criminal offence, culminating in a life time prison sentence for us all, we have had to revert to drastic measures.

“It is very unusual for a council management team to consider taking collective legal action against an elected member.

“However because his behaviour has dramatically deteriorated we have been left with no option.

“Our role is to work with councillors for the benefit of local residents but Coun Brierley’s attitude makes it impossible.”

Coun Brierley said he was looking forward to defending himself in any legal action.

He said that he recorded meetings with council officers because, suffering all his life with the “disability of dyslexia” he had difficulty in remembering and recording conversations.

He said: “I have evidence where council employees have made ridiculous statements and allegations in writing to the police about me which I strongly refute and are currently being investigated.

“All these bad behaviour claims about me are nothing but a smokescreen to try and stop me being an effective councillor for the people of Hindley Green who keep voting me back in...and I have got evidence to prove that.”

The council says residents of Hindley Green can still contact other ward members to access Brighter Borough funding. The statement added: “If we see an improvement in the way he operates we will reconsider our legal position.”