Councillor punished for swear word use

Councillor Bob Brierley

Councillor Bob Brierley

A controversial Wigan councillor found to have used a swear word in a public meeting will be hit with sanctions if he is re-elected in May.

A town hall standards committee yesterday adjudged Coun Bob Brierley to have used an offensive term at a council meeting in November 2014.

The outspoken independent - who has denied using any inappropriate language and was not present at the hearing - will be asked to make a public apology.

If he is re-elected, he will be banned from accessing Brighter Borough funding.

Council monitoring officer Linda Fisher, who investigated the code of conduct complaint, told the meeting: “This case gets to the very essence of why we have a code and why we need one.

“We have a duty as a local authority to maintain and protect high standards.”

The hearing went ahead despite Coun Brierley not being in attendance, having previously stated he would present a counter case to the committee.

Proceedings were postponed last month because the councillor was struggling with illness. But the committee, chaired by Labour member for Golborne and Lowton West Coun Stuart Keane, decided to proceed without the Hindley Green representative.

The committee was shown video evidence of the incident from Leigh Town Hall where Coun Brierley was involved in an exchange with Labour’s Coun Stephen Murphy.

Ms Fisher had tasked audio forensic expert Iain McArthur to assess the footage with his report concluding Coun Brierley did say “Oh, I forgot it’s you Mr Murphy, you ********.”

Mr McArthur added: “He had the microphone very close to his mouth and it’s a very clear recording.

“I have no problem with accents, I have lived around Manchester for a number of years and I understand the accent.” Asked by Ms Fisher whether he thought there was a chance Coun Brierley had said “Oh, I forgot it’s you Mr Murphy, you again” - which is what he has previously claimed - Mr McArthur replied: “Absolutely not, 100 per cent.”

Coun Brierley was found by the committee to be in breach of the town hall’s code of conduct for elected members in regard to bringing the council into disrepute, acting in a bullying or aggressive manner and not respecting fellow members of the council.

Along with being asked for the public apology, to his colleagues and Coun Murphy, he will also continue to have his email communications with officers regulated, something which has been imposed due to previous standards breaches.

If he makes his apology his restriction to Brighter Borough funding and email regulation will be reduced from two years to one year, the committee added.