Investigation clears councillor of rules breach after he claimed Wirral mayor-elect was 'not fit for the job' (From Wirral Globe)
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Investigation clears councillor of rules breach after he claimed Wirral mayor-elect was 'not fit for the job'
AN investigation into comments made by a Wirral councillor who claimed the borough’s next mayor is “not fit for the job” has ruled no breach of conduct was committed.
Wirral Council commissioned an external investigation into remarks made against Labour's Steve Foulkes by Conservative Chris Blakeley in articles published in May 2013.
At the time, Cllr Foulkes had been nominated to become deputy mayor, something Cllr Blakeley said he would not be backing.
In the articles, Cllr Blakeley said: “Having sat on the benches opposite calling for his resignation because he was not fit to lead the council, how can I now say that he is fit to be deputy mayor this year and the mayor next year?”
Following this Cllr Foulkes made a complaint under the Members’ Code of Conduct.
However the authority today revealed the investigation concluded Cllr Blakeley was “acting in his official capacity” when he made the comments and that no breach of the code had occurred.
A spokesman for the authority said: “The investigator found that the article ‘constituted the legitimate expression of Cllr Blakeley, quotes relating to the matter within his legitimate concern as a councillor.
“The investigator did not consider the quotes were expressions of personal malice/anger or personal abuse directed at Cllr Foulkes.”
Wirral’s ruling cabinet backed the former council leader to be the borough’s next mayor, with Cllr Foulkes expected to be formally appointed first citizen following the approval of the full council in June.
But Cllr Blakeley has again said he would not be backing the nomination.
On Saturday he tweeted: “To be very clear - Cllr Foulkes will NOT have my support at the mayor-making ceremony.”
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The mayoral role is seen as a non-political position and includes chairing full meetings of the council as well as attending civic functions and representing the borough.
The civic honour is especially important this year as Wirral welcomes the return of the Open Golf Championship in July.
Heswall Conservative councillor Les Rowlands has been nominated as Wirral’s next deputy mayor.
Senior Lib Dem Councillor Stuart Kelly said: "Wirral residents looking at this episode will rightly think that councillors should be debating and resolving the many real issues that Wirral faces rather than constantly examining its own navel in this way
“I want to know what the cost of this whole exercise has been, because I do know for certain that it has not helped improve a single Wirral service for people.
“Debates between councillors can sometimes become heated, sometimes artificially heated, but at the end of the day there is no reason we can’t be civil to one another whatever the political differences may be.”