Councillor escapes censure over private details ‘leak’

Cllr Fred Walker
Cllr Fred Walker

A COUNCILLOR who revealed private details of a chamber colleague during a Wigan Town Hall meeting will not face punishment.

Having made initial inquiries, Greater Manchester Police said no further action would be taken in regard to a complaint made against Coun Fred Walker.

But questions remain as to how the Labour member for Leigh East gained access to the sensitive information in the first place.

Coun Walker spoke out at September’s meeting of the full council during discussions on standards committee sanctions imposed against independent Coun Robert Bleakley.

Coun Bleakley had racked up a £2,000 plus bill on his council mobile calling sex chat lines, sending offensive messages and had previously been caught watching pornographic material on his local authority laptop.

The remark, which the Evening Post is choosing not to print, drew sharp intakes of breath in reaction across the chamber and was subsequently edited out of the council’s video of the proceedings.

It related to personal information thought to have been revealed to members of the standards committee as part of the investigation into Coun Bleakley’s use of his council equipment, but not to non-committee members such as Coun Walker.

The complaint was submitted by former councillor Peter Franzen, claiming Coun Walker had committed a “hate crime and harassment of an elected councillor.”

Mr Franzen said: “I made the complaint to GMP due to my concern that a politically-motivated witch hunt was being conducted against several opposition councillors by the Labour Group aided and abetted by some senior staff.”

He added he was “not surprised” his complaint had come to nothing but believes questions remain about the “obtaining of confidential press and public-excluded information.”

The Evening Post contacted Coun Walker and the Labour group but they declined to comment. Coun Bleakley also declined to comment.

It is understood no complaint was made about the incident through the council’s own standards procedure.

The comment was recorded by the council’s video recording of the meeting but was taken out by the time it appeared on the internet.

John Mitchell, assistant director of contracts, said: “The video of the council meeting was edited due to the comments made by a councillor against another councillor, which would be in breach of the Data Protection Act 1998. “We do not take the decision to edit council meetings lightly and do not edit anything unless there is an overwhelming case for changes to be made.

“In this circumstance we made the decision that this was the right thing to do.”