Calls for councillor to quit

Coun Robert Bleakley
Coun Robert Bleakley

ANGRY voters are campaigning to force a shamed councillor who was found guilty of using his work phone to ring sex lines and send sexist messages to resign.

Petitions calling on Tyldesley ward representative Coun Robert Bleakley to step down from Wigan Council will be launched on the town’s market square on Saturday.

Voters are trying to remove the independent councillor in the wake of revelations he ran up a £2,400 bill on the phone given to him by the local authority ringing sex chat lines and sent derogatory text messages about women.

Coun Bleakley has so far rejected a deluge of calls for him to quit, saying he has been the victim of a “smear campaign” and “character assassination”, but constituents disgusted by his behaviour are now attempting to force him out.

Ian Jackson, owner of community interest company (CIC) Cadence Cafe, said: “We think what has happened is wrong and we will be supporting the campaign with a petition in the cafe.

“Coun Bleakley has never replied to our emails asking for support and hard-working councillors from other wards have had to help out with our events such as the Cadence Festival. It seems to me all he has done for Tyldesley is bring it into disrepute.

“People I have spoken to say his behaviour is disgusting and rightly so.”

The campaign has also attracted cross-party political support, with local Labour and Conservative politicians both calling on Coun Bleakley to stand down.

Coun James Grundy, group leader of the council’s Conservatives, said: “The rest of the council is unanimous that Coun Bleakley must resign as, I suspect, are the people of Tyldesley.

“The public needs a power of recall for disgraced councillors like Coun Bleakley.”

Labour Tyldesley ward councillor Jo Marshall said: “Coun Bleakley has committed fraud on the public purse and his abusive text messages about women are nothing short of sickening. His position is now untenable.”

In a statement responding to earlier calls to quit Coun Bleakley said: “I am not sexist or misogynist and never have been. A small number of selected text messages have been taken out of context by Wigan Council’s propaganda machine and are now being used against me.”

The petitions will be available for residents to sign on Tyldesley market square from around 10.30am on Saturday.