Increase in complaints against councillors sees spending soar

Leigh Journal: Lord Peter Smith Lord Peter Smith

COMPLAINTS about the behaviour of councillors have almost doubled this year, sending costs soaring.

The latest annual report - prepared by Wigan Council and heard at a meeting of the Standards Committee on Tuesday - reveals that the number of complaints has almost doubled since the previous year, despite the introduction of tougher sanctions last summer.

In 2013/14, 27 complaints were submitted against councillors, compared with 17 the year before.

The report shows the increase has had a direct impact on costs, with the £20,000 spend in 2012/13 trebling to somewhere in the region of £78,000 in the current financial year.

Leader of Wigan Council Lord Peter Smith said: "While the majority of councillors understand that it is their duty to behave responsibly and in the interest of our taxpayers, there are a handful of councillors whose childish and irresponsible antics continue to bring our office into disrepute. Behaving like this at the best of times isn't acceptable, so behaving like this when budgets are tight and services are under threat is nothing short of stupid and selfish."

The report shows a total of 83 complaints about members' behaviour have been submitted over the past five years, with a third of those received this year alone - the highest number of any Greater Manchester authorities.

Lord Smith added: "I will make no apology of making an example of those who continue to treat our staff in this way and who drain our economic resources. Our electorate deserve to know who is wasting their money with their childish behaviour."

As elected members, Wigan Council does not have the power to dismiss councillors for poor behaviour. Clr Gary Wilkes, leader of the opposition group, added: "Wigan Independent Network (Win) endorses Wigan Council's strong stance to rid the borough of unmanageable councillors."

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