Row erupts over 'fake' councillor complaints

Town hall bosses have taken the unprecedented step of warning residents about a 'fake councillor' as a long-running dispute re-ignites.
Gareth Fairhurst (left) with Coun George Fairhurst and Coun Debbie FairhurstGareth Fairhurst (left) with Coun George Fairhurst and Coun Debbie Fairhurst
Gareth Fairhurst (left) with Coun George Fairhurst and Coun Debbie Fairhurst

The council says it has received complaints about ex-councillor Gareth Fairhurst who they claim continues to hold surgeries and act as an elected member.

Mr Fairhurst, who lost his seat last year, has accused the council of peddling “false allegations” and called the complainants “political opportunists.”

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He told the Observer it is no “big deal” his social media profiles state he is a councillor and his presence at surgeries is to support his father and wife, who are.

The town hall will send out leaflets this week clarifying to Standish residents who their ward representatives are.

A council statement said: “We have received a significant number of complaints from Standish residents about the fake councillor. We want to remind residents your legitimate elected councillors are Couns Ray Whittingham, Debbie Fairhurst and George Fairhurst.”

Mr Fairhurst said: “(In relation to the) surgeries, they told (the media) I was doing this in the library. Yet that is their building and if I was doing them they could stop me.

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“The fact is I’m not, my wife and dad do them and (the council) are trying to stop people going there because residents are furious with the council and Standish Voice on the Rec issue.

“It is well documented that I am not a councillor any more. Since I lost my seat, I simply haven’t changed some profile wording. Big deal.”

A council spokeswoman added: “All we can do is tell residents who their councillors are. We can do nothing to make the fake councillor stop holding surgeries and claiming to be an elected representative.

“The Department for Communities and Local Government had never heard of this before. It is very strange.”

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During his time as a Standish Independent councillor Mr Fairhurst was involved in a number of high-profile disputes with the council over several years.

Plans to transform Standish Rec are currently subject to a public consultation run by neighbourhood forum Standish Voice (SV).

The Fairhursts are against SV’s suggested plans to create a play park and car park on site.

Since losing his seat in last year’s elections Mr Fairhurst’s Twitter handle and online blog site have maintained his councillor title despite calls from residents for him to change them.

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Wigan Council said it sent a legal letter to the ex-councillor in June 2016 highlighting concerns about his blog and requesting him to re-word his profile to reflect his election loss.

The Observer has viewed this letter and asked Mr Fairhurst for a response to its claims.

He said: “That’s a fake letter, (I) never ever had any letters or e-mails from them.”

The Observer put this claim to the council, in return, and officers revealed a further e-mail, sent in July 2016, which received a response from Mr Fairhurst’s personal e-mail address.

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The e-mail, from council solicitor Janet Davies, reads: “I would ... ask that you amend the blog to make it clear you are no longer a councillor representing Wigan Council.”

A same day response, signed off “Yours sincerely, Gareth Fairhurst”, reads: “On the matter of the blog name I can only say to the council get over it.

“I ain’t changing it and it is not illegal and the more you guys protest the more you will make me smile.”

The Observer gave Mr Fairhurst the opportunity to comment on this e-mail exchange, he said he did not recall sending the response from his account.

He added: “It doesn’t look like an e-mail from me.”