Man dubbed ‘UK’s worst councillor’ recovering after stroke

Coun Robert Bleakley
Coun Robert Bleakley

THE Wigan councillor branded Britain’s worst has been hit by a stroke at the age of just 44.

Robert Bleakley, who has been battling the axe from his town seat after being found guilty of accessing porn on his council computer, was rushed to Bolton Royal Hospital on Wednesday after falling ill.

I have spoken to Robert in hospital and he remains in strong spirits and determined to get well and to get back to serving his community

Peter Franzen

The emergency services were alerted by his stepfather who had called at his home and realised immediately that Coun Bleakey was unwell.

Scans at hospital later confirmed that he had suffered a stroke.

He has lost some mobility - but is hopeful of making a full recovery and a return to duties as a councillor.

One of his most prominent supporters immediately blamed the “unbelievable levels of stress” that Coun Bleakley had been put under due to an alleged “vicious witch hunt” against him by the council.

The council said today, simply, that it wished him a speedy recovery. His condition is said to be comfortable.

Coun Bleakley, now a Tyldesley independent after being thrown out of the Lib Dems, is currently subject to a range of sanctions imposed by the local authority’s Standards committee after a series of complaints about his behaviour towards council officers and members of the public.

The latest breach of the Councillors’ Code of Conduct governing every member was being found to have misused his council IT equipment to access porn. And to have made derogatory and insulting comments about women via social media.

He has twice been suspended from duties as a councillor after disciplinary hearings – the only councillor in the history of Wigan borough to face such a fate.

And Coun Bleakley has narrowly avoided being thrown off the council altogether over his lack of attendance at town hall meetings.

He continues to argue that his work as a councillor is carried out within his community ... not in “meaningless talk shop” local authority meetings.

Leader of the council Lord Smith said: “Obviously the Labour Group would offer its best wishes and speedy recovery to Coun Bleakley.

“However it is his own unacceptable behaviour which has contributed to the pressure on him and this could not go unchallenged.”

Current leader of the opposition, Tory councillor James Grundy, said that he wouldn’t claim to be a “friend” of Coun Bleakley.

But he said it would be “petty and small-minded” not to wish him a swift recovery.

He said: “At times like this party politics must go out of the window.”

However Peter Franzen, former leader of the Community Action Party but who chose not to stand in the recent local elections, has stood by Coun Bleakley despite the increasing disciplinary furore which has engulfed him.

At one point the national tabloids reported the council’s complaints against bachelor Coun Bleakley and asked the question: “Is this Britain’s worst councillor?”

Mr Franzen said: “I have spoken to Robert in hospital and he remains in strong spirits and determined to get well and to get back to serving his community.

“He has been taken ill after more than a decade of persecution and politically motivated witch hunts.

“He will be in hospital, he has been told, for an indeterminate period but his spirit remains strong.

“I have conveyed his apologies to the council on his behalf because it is unlikely that he will be able to attend the next council meeting.”

“I expect that, a modicum of decency providing, the council will join me in wishing Robert a speedy and full recovery and an early return to his council duties and activities, for which he is so well respected in his ward and throughout the borough.”

Yet Coun Bleakley is still facing another standards probe into allegations he made “vile comments” to police officers.