Councillor objects to ‘threat’ claims

Gareth Fairhurst
Gareth Fairhurst

A WIGAN councillor accused of issuing a physical threat to a chamber colleague has said her comments were not offensive.

Coun Gareth Fairhurst had complained to the town hall about remarks made by a “mystery heckler” at last month’s full council meeting.

The Evening Post can today reveal that the comments were made by Ince representative Janice Sharratt but she has denied that her words were issued as a threat.

With the mystery surrounding the heckler’s identity now cleared up, the matter will now be determined by town hall standards officers as to whether any disciplinary action is required.

It is believed Coun Sharratt was unmasked after behind-the-scenes inquiries by council officials.

Labour member Coun Sharratt told the Evening Post: “The transcript of the full council meeting confirms that I did not make any threats against Coun Fairhurst and in a political debating chamber I am surprised that he has taken offence.”

The incident - which was recorded by council officers although it is unclear from the footage which councillor made the remark - occurred as Standish’s Coun Fairhurst was addressing the chamber on the government’s Trade Union Bill and changes to strike action ballots.

Discussing strikes by hospital workers, the footage records him saying: “If one of you got seriously ill, would you say, it’s okay, don’t treat me, I know you’re on strike. Or would you want somebody there to treat your family member, I know I would.”

At this point, a female councillor’s voice can be heard to say: “We can make arrangements for it.” Coun Fairhurst then tells the mayor that he has taken the remark as a physical threat “to put him in hospital”.

He had already accused one Labour councillor of making the remarks and named her on social media before accepting he had been mistaken.

Coun Fairhurst said: “No councillor, whatever political persuasion, should get away with physical threats.”

He has dismissed Coun Sharratt’s account of events and called on her to make a public apology.

He added that the incident has been referred to police.

The meeting was a particularly hostile one for the Standish Independent Group leader as he also had to fend off criticism about the costs of the Ashfield Park village green status public inquiry.