Maverick councillor’s fury at new discipline sanctions

Coun Bob Brierley
Coun Bob Brierley

Wigan Council’s long-running dispute with an outspoken opposition councillor shows no sign of ending following his latest standards appearance.

The town hall has revealed the measures it plans to take against Hindley Green independent representative Coun Bob Brierley after he was found guilty of abusive and bullying behaviour towards female employees.

The local authority wants to continue monitoring his communication with officers through a managed mailbox and to ensure he has to communicate first with a single civil servant when he rings the town hall on any matter.

This, however, has produced a furious response from Coun Brierley who refused to accept these were administrative measures but described them as sanctions, which standards boards have far less power to issue than previously against elected members under the Localism Act.

The council has strongly defended its actions over the case, saying the committee which considered Coun Brierley’s behaviour itself recommended the local authority lobby for more powers to tackle wrongdoing by councillors.

Brendan Whitworth, assistant director for legal, said: “Having found that Coun Brierley had breached the members’ code of conduct in relation to the complaints, the sub-committee noted that he had over a number of years been subject to various sanctions following previous findings of breach of the code.

“However, these sanctions were clearly inadequate to address the councillor’s behaviour.

“The sub-committee expressed their concern about the inadequacy of sanctions under the current standards regime.

“The sub-committee recommended that the chief executive and monitoring officer consider whether there were any administrative measures, outside of the standards regime, that could be put in place to protect the health, safety and wellbeing of staff and to facilitate the proper discharge of the council’s functions.

“These measures are not sanctions but are processes that are necessary to help staff to manage any requests from Coun Brierley while still allowing him to perform his role as an elected member.”

Coun Brierley, though, said: “This approach has proven itself to be a hindrance to me performing my role and its related functions effectively.

“I do not agree to separate administrative arrangements. The council states it needs to provide a safe working environment for staff but I too am required to be provided with a safe working environment and the stated administrative arrangements make me have a stigmatised and alienated working environment.

“No matter how they re-word them these are sanctions.

“No other councillor is subject to them. It is not an employee of a council’s responsibility to decide which of my emails go to those I intend them to or not.

“They have made me out to be a right monster and on what grounds?”