Better behaviour in chamber as complaints about Wigan councillors fall

Town hall chiefs have recorded a 'notable decrease' in the number of complaints against Wigan's once notoriously badly-behaved councillors.

Monday, 19th March 2018, 9:30 am
Updated Tuesday, 20th March 2018, 4:20 pm
Robert Bleakley

A report delivered to members on the local authority’s standards committee notes what it calls a “pleasing trend”.

One factor highlighted is the departure from the town hall chamber of several serial offenders, such as Robert Bleakley, who clocked up numerous complaints during his time in office.

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Once branded Britain’s worst councillor, Bleakley’s unsavoury antics included viewing pornographic material on his council phone and insulting police officers with taunts about cop killer Dale Cregan. His turbulent political career coincided with a low point for councillor misbehaviour, with dozens of complaints made each year.

However, since last January there have been just seven reports of code of conduct breaches.

“This is a pleasing trend,” said Brendan Whiteworth, Wigan Council assistant director of legal services. “There are a number of factors that have contributed to this decrease including a stance on investigating serious complaints informally plus changes to elected members.”

In the period between January 2016 and ’17, there were eight complaints, seven from members of the public and one from a councillor.

One was subsequently withdrawn and one dismissed as not being covered by the council’s code of conduct.

Five were not pursued following the assessment stage. The eighth was resolved informally between the complainant and the councillor.

Between January 2017 and the present date, there have been seven complaints. Two withdrawn and two dismissed at the assessment stage. One was resolved by an informal resolution, with the councillor in question tendering an apology. Two are subject to an ongoing investigation.