Council sanctions ARE legal despite protests

News story
News story

A TRIO of Wigan councillors locked in a dispute with council chiefs over disciplinary sanctions has accused the local authority of breaching government regulations.

Couns Gareth Fairhurst, Bob Brierley and Robert Bleakley have challenged punishments handed out to them after a number of standards hearings.

In pursuit of the claims they contacted the Department for Communities and Local Government and have been informed new regulations allow for “censure but no sanction” as part of the standards procedure.

And this has been taken to mean their punishments - which include a withdrawal of brighter borough funding, expulsion from committees and withholding of equipment privileges - are unlawful.

However, the council has hit back, claiming the sanctions it has imposed are all above board.

A spokesman said: “The sanctions previously imposed are legal and appropriate and have not been challenged by any member by way of Judicial Review and therefore stand.

“It is disappointing that we have a number of sanctions that remain outstanding and that councillors have not adhered to.”

Leaders of the council’s political parties sent a letter to local government minister Eric Pickles last year calling for a change in law to allow the public to vote out misbehaving representatives throughout the election cycle. It cited the behaviour of the three councillors involved in this dispute.

The trio have all either denied the allegations against them, challenged the authority of the standards committee or criticised the procedure as unlawful.

Coun Bleakley, who is an independent representative for Tyldesley, claimed senior council officers and Labour Party figures “consider themselves to be above the law.”

He added the wording of the “censure but no sanction” letter, sent by Kris Hopkins MP, “is not open to misinterpretation.”

He has asked for an official apology and his council telephone and internet facilities to be reinstated having been sanctioned for accessing pornographic material and sending offensive messages.

Standish Independent Coun Fairhurst has not ruled out pursuing a legal case against the local authority that has accused him of “repeatedly lashing out at the chief executive”.

He said: “The letter is there in black and white, I will let the council have a chance to do the honourable thing and retract these punishments or we will have to seek other options.”

Coun Brierley, who represents Hindley Green as an Independent also suggested he would pursue a legal claim.

He was the subject of an unprecedented series of six standards hearings last year over allegations of bullying behaviour. He said: “They are in breach of the law and I have asked to be reinstated on all the committees that were taken away from me and to have my brighter borough money back.”

Coun Fairhurst is a parliamentary candidate in the Wigan constituency along with Lisa Nandy (Labour), Mark Bradley (UK Independence Party), Richard Clayton (Liberal Democrat), Caroline Kerswell (Conservative), Brian Parr (Independent) and Will Patterson (Green).