Leader’s ‘disappointment’ at Bleakley probe verdict

Coun Robert Bleakley
Coun Robert Bleakley

WIGAN’S town hall chief today said it was “extremely disappointing” that a controversial councillor won’t face a standards hearing over an alleged “highly offensive” comment levelled at police officers about serial killer Dale Cregan – despite an investigation concluding that he said it.

Tyldesley independent Coun Robert Bleakley was the subject of a complaint by Greater Manchester Police concerning a confrontation with bobbies at his home earlier this year.

It was referred by Wigan Council to an independent expert to see whether it breached the local government Code of Conduct and therefore warranted further examination by the local authority’s own standards panel.

The investigator has now reported back, saying that Counc Bleakley did say the words attributed to him (despite his denying it), but ruled that he was not acting as a councillor at the time.

The Code of Conduct therefore does not apply.

Exact details of what was alleged to have been said have not been released but they are believed to be about the murders of PCs Nicola Hughes and Fiona Bone by Dale Cregan.

Leader of Wigan Council, Lord Peter Smith, said: “It is extremely disappointing that this complaint will not be going to a formal hearing process, despite the severity of Coun Bleakley’s comments. In my personal opinion, a councillor should set a good example whether they are on or off duty, so the fact that an independent investigator has found that he was not acting in an official capacity is disappointing. As such, he cannot be brought to a standards hearing.

“We are frustrated that in serious cases such as this where a councillor clearly goes beyond the boundaries of acceptable behaviour the council is powerless under the current law to take any action. We have already written to the local government minister to highlight the ineffectiveness of the standards regime and this case clearly demonstrates that we do not have enough power to make a difference and to deter councillors from behaving badly.”

A police spokesman would only say: “Greater Manchester Police notes the outcome of the investigation.”

The comments were said to have been made after officers visited the Tyldesley councillor’s house after a tempestuous meeting of the full council. A complaint had been submitted to Greater Manchester Police that Coun Bleakley had been the victim of harassment having been followed into the council chamber by television news crews.

He had previously been found guilty of accessing porn on a council computer and had refused to resign his seat.

Coun Bleakley is up for re-election next May.