Wigan councillor resignation row heading for court

Steve Jones
Steve Jones

An independent politician is ready for a showdown in court with Wigan Council over his controversial exit from the chamber.

A top judge will consider the case of Bryn’s Steve Jones who is currently locked in dispute with town hall bosses over whether he actually quit his elected role or not.

Related: Councillor's resignation U-turn blocked

An interim hearing has been scheduled for tomorrow (Thursday) at the Manchester Civil Justice Centre in front of Mr Justice Tim Kerr.

The proceedings in court will then determine if there is enough evidence to proceed to a full judicial review of the matter, which has been requested on Mr Jones’s behalf by former independent councillor Gareth Fairhurst, and if an injunction needs to be put in place.

Wigan Council says Mr Jones resigned when he met with local authority officers last month but he says he only spoke of an intention to quit in the following weeks, a suggestion he then changed his mind about.

The urgency of the case is due to a by-election having been called in Bryn, with voters set to go to the ballot box to choose between four candidates including Mr Jones next Thursday.

Both sides spoke confidently ahead of the hearing, which could potentially see the vote next week suspended.

Mr Jones said: “I don’t like being overconfident about these things because you just never know but whether it’s the court case or the by-election I think we will win.

“I think justice and democracy will prevail. My intention to resign was because I wasn’t sure what voters would think of my personal issues but I have the support of the public and I can’t thank them enough.”

Mr Fairhurst added: “I’m absolutely ecstatic that a judge considers this worthy of his time and something that needs looking into. This is a monumental development.

“We have said right from the beginning that this would happen but the council didn’t listen and said it would get thrown out.”

A Wigan Council spokeswoman said: “An interim hearing will take place on Thursday to determine the validity of the claim before it is either rejected or carried forward for judicial review. This is standard practice.

“Mr Jones chose not to resign immediately from his position because of his financial position. His decision to resign followed a number of incidents which included a drink-driving conviction and common assault caution.

“After these events he was removed from the independent group by leader Coun Debbie Fairhurst.

“We shared his own concerns that led him to decide he was no longer a suitable representative and he therefore made the decision to resign.

“The council’s position remains that Mr Jones resigned as a councillor.”

The interim injunction hearing on the judicial review case will take place at 10.30am on Thursday.

The Bryn by-election is on Thursday February 22.
Mr Jones is standing as an independent candidate against Vicky Johnson (Labour), Judith Atherton (Conservatives) and Denise Melling (Liberal Democrats).