Shamed councillor won’t quit

Robert Bleakley
Robert Bleakley

UNDER-FIRE Robert Bleakley has responded to questions about his future in defiant fashion despite increasing calls for him to stand down as a Wigan councillor.

Borough leaders from across the political divide have joined in slamming his behaviour with council leader Lord Peter Smith advising people to “have nothing to do with this disgraced individual.”

And his paying-back of the £2,400 bill, racked up ringing sex chat lines through council expenses, has been described as a “ridiculous situation” by the Tax Payers’ Alliance.

Responding to Evening Post questions about his future, Coun Bleakley said the council’s investigation was part of a “vendetta and smear campaign” and provided a stream of allegations about standards committee members.

When first asked to comment on resignation calls or the “sickening” content of the messages sent on his local authority mobile, he responded: “Read the email, idiot.”

At that point he had not addressed the resignation issue. But in a new statement he later said he had no plans to quit and his friends, family and colleagues “believe that the Wigan Council propaganda machine has gone over-the-top in their character assassination of me and my reputation as an elected councillor.”

He added: “The Labour-controlled council committee has no authority or power to force me to submit to training.

“On the contrary it is they and their lickspittle officers who are in need of training.”

Female council staff have been advised not to speak to the member who was elected in 2012 and will be up for re-election in 2016.

Since the abolition of the Standards Board for England, council standards committees are powerless to suspend misbehaving elected representatives.

A Department for Communities and Local Government spokesman said: “This type of behaviour is simply unacceptable and has absolutely no place in public life. Councillors are expected to lead by example and promote British values, such as decency and courtesy, to their communities.

“Ultimately, the ballot box provides the means for the electorate to boot out councillors who do not act in accordance with the standards that the public expect.“

Lord Smith and his opposition counterpart Coun Gary Wilkes both called for his resignation.

Lord Smith said: “I have been calling on Coun Bleakley to resign since the exposure of his previous use of his council computer to access horrific porn. He has not only brought himself into disrepute but has damaged the town of Tyldesley.

“He has compounded his trawl of extreme porn on the internet by expressing outlandish views about women.”

Coun Bleakley has agreed to pay off his phone bill through monthly instalments deducted from his expenses.

Dia Chakravarty, political director at the TaxPayers’ Alliance, said: “The fees should be paid back out of his own pocket, not borne by hard-pressed families who’ve already been swindled once.”

Liverpool Council, where Coun Bleakley works, has launched its own probe after Wigan’s discovery of the “sexually explicit, sexist and discriminatory” messages. A spokesman said: “We have launched an investigation to establish whether there has been any breach of any relevant policies, procedures or codes.”