EXPOSED: Secret plot calls for chief exec’s sacking

Wigan Council chief executive Donna Hall
Wigan Council chief executive Donna Hall

WIGAN Council’s chief executive is facing calls for her to face the sack over an email fraud row engulfing the town hall.

Opposition councillors angered by Donna Hall’s handling of complaints about a Liberal Democrat councillor who posed as a council officer will table a motion at the next full council meeting demanding she is dismissed by the authority.

The move follows an unprecedented summit of all opposition groupings on the council in Hindley earlier in the week called after Coun Robert Bleakley was reported to police by the town hall supremo.

Coun Bleakley was found to have altered an email from director of economy Steve Normington to make it appear he and other officers were biased towards the ruling Labour group.

Ms Hall followed this up by jointly signing a letter from the town hall unions sent by recorded delivery to every councillor over the weekend warning of strong action should there be any further attacks on officers of the authority by councillors. Opposition councillors – headed by Standish independent councillor, Gareth Fairhurst – claim the council is overreacting at the behest of the ruling party.

Coun Fairhurst said: “While I cannot condone Coun Bleakley’s actions I do feel his frustration about the way the council favours Labour councillors over opposition councillors.

“You only have to look at the number of times the council has reported opposition councillors to the police with no reason and the police have subsequently taken no action, to my knowledge, wasting tax payers money for political ends.

“It was only a few weeks ago the council wasted over £12,000 by reporting me to the police but they didn’t even come to talk to me because there was no case and I suspect this will be the same here.

“In my opinion the council is getting involved with political arguments which it shouldn’t be and mis-using powers against opposition councillors.”

The motion will be tabled at the next full council meeting on July 17. All councillors will be asked to vote on the proposition to sack Ms Hall but given the Labour group’s overwhelming majority it is virtually guaranteed to fail.

However, opposition councillors feel the move will demonstrate the depth of ill-feeling on their benches about the way Coun Bleakley and others have been treated by the council hierarchy.

Leader of the opposition Coun Gary Wilkes said the Wigan Independent Group (WIN) he leads is seeking expert legal advice to “see what course of action the group needs to take next.”

Council leader and Labour group boss Lord Smith, however, described the move as a “clear attempt” by opposition councillors to divert attention from a number of serious breaches of the Councillors’ Protocol by “several” of them.

He said: “If they had consulted the council’s legal department they would have been told there is a statutory process for removing a chief executive which involves an independent investigation.

“The council does not have the power to act without this.

“Rather than wasting time on pointless motions or plotting on Monday evening in Hindley, the opposition would do better to improve their behaviour and stopping trying to bully staff at all levels.”

A town hall spokesman declined to comment.