‘Time to go’ say members

Coun Robert Bleakley
Coun Robert Bleakley

WIGAN’S council chamber voiced stern condemnation for the actions of a shamed member at a tempestuous meeting last night.

An amended motion calling for under-fire Coun Robert Bleakley to resign was voted through with a vast majority.

A protest from members of workers’ union GMB greeted the borough’s councillors to the town hall, although Coun Bleakley stayed away.

And a rumble of murmurs and jeers followed the official apology of absence read on behalf of the Tyldesley representative.

Coun Bleakley, now a lone independent, was sanctioned earlier this month for racking up a £2,400 bill on his local authority mobile phone calling sex-lines and sending illicit and sexist messages.

He was earlier this year found to have accessed pornographic material on a council laptop. Coun Terry Halliwell, who proposed the motion to call for Coun Bleakley’s resignation, first explained to the chamber that his use of the term “extreme pornography” should be taken to mean hardcore but legal content.

Coun Halliwell said: “If a council officer had undertaken such actions they would have found they had their employment terminated. I believe his position has become untenable. He should step down and call a by-election, he has brought this council into disrepute.”

Leader Lord Peter Smith told the chamber the sexist content of the messages could not be ignored.

He said: “To say women are just cooking and washing material, how could you hold that view in the 21st century?”

The motion did not receive universal backing though as the three members of the Standish Independent party opted to abstain and Hindley Green’s independent Coun Bob Brierley declined to vote at all.

Standish Independent leader Coun Gareth Fairhurst faced criticism from Labour members for failing to take action against Coun Bleakley, who was part of the same political group before a split last week.

Coun Fairhurst maintained he had been waiting for the full facts of the case before acting. He in turn slammed the council for grouping the resignation motion with findings from his own standards breach hearing.

He said: “These things are not related in any shape or form.”