Councillor’s dispute rumbles on

Cllr Robert Bleakley
Cllr Robert Bleakley
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WIGAN Council bosses have hit back at a councillor who has reported members of their senior management team to Greater Manchester’s chief constable.

In a letter addressed to Sir Peter Fahy, Coun Robert Bleakley accused council staff of a “smear campaign” which has “been a huge and shocking waste of police time and money”.

But the council’s chief executive, Donna Hall, dismissed the allegations and Wigan’s top officer, Ch Supt Shaun Donnellan said the investigations were “far from wasting police time”.

Last week the Evening Post revealed that Coun Bleakley would not face criminal charges relating to an alleged offence of misuse of public office.

He had previously been found guilty by the council’s standards committee for altering an email in an attempt to jeopardise a senior employee’s job.

Ms Hall said: “Wigan Council historically has the highest number of standards complaints of any council nationally. This is down to just a few councillors. We have not engaged in any ‘smear campaign’. We have investigated in accordance with our protocol when we have received reports of improper behaviour by any councillor.

“In some instances, due to the seriousness of the allegations – and an admission of guilt in one case - we have had no choice but to pass on the information to the police.

“The council has not ‘leaked’ information. Any details released by us have been as a direct response to an inquiry from the media when individual councillors have approached the press, or making information publicly available as is standard practice following Standards Board investigations.

“The Standards Committee reflects the political make-up of the council overall and that in turn reflects how the people of Wigan borough have voted.”

Coun Bleakley, who represents Tyldesley ward, stated in his letter of complaint: “During the past 12 months officers of Wigan Council have engaged in several malicious politically motivated complaints to GMP against three opposition councillors, including myself.

“This (has been) part of a wider smear campaign that has included complaints to the Labour controlled Wigan Council Standards Committee and leaks to the local press that have resulted in sensational headlines. Each and every one of the complaints have been dismissed by GMP and/or the Crown Prosecution Service.”

The complaint names Ms Hall, deputy chief executive Paul McKevitt and assistant legal director John Mitchell. It also cites Couns Bob Brierley and Gareth Fairhurst as the representatives who have had “false allegations” made against them.

Last week Coun Brierley learned he would also not face criminal charges after the council complained about his alleged “violent manner towards and harassment of” chief executive Ms Hall.

Chief Supt Shaun Donnellan said: “Thanks to the excellent relationship that exists between Wigan Council and ourselves, any potential offences are dealt with promptly by my officers. Elected members need to understand that their office does not allow them to break the law or engage in behaviours that may attract a police investigation.

“I am unaware of any complaints from Wigan Council being dismissed by GMP or CPS. Every complaint is considered on its own individual circumstances and the feelings and views of the victim. Some cases are taken to court some are not, it is all dependent upon the factors of the case.

“I am satisfied that each allegation was made with the best intentions and far from wasting police time, I would encourage any other suspected offences to be passed on.”