Under fire councillor to face full Standards investigation

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At a Standards Assessment Sub-Committee meeting held on Wednesday 20th October, 2021, chaired by the very experienced ex-Mayor, Cllr Peter Dean, it was resolved that Cllr Mark Wilkinson of the hyper-local Failsworth Independent Party (FIPs) is to face a full investigation over alleged misconduct.

The complainant is Sean Fielding, the former Leader of Oldham Metropolitan Borough Council, who was deposed by Cllr Wilkinson at the May, 2021 local elections.

Ex-councillor Fielding had held the Failsworth West seat since 2012. He rose to become the youngest ever council leader in the country, in 2018, at the age of 28. A rising star in a Labour Party desperate to groom new talent for the national stage.

The loss of his seat, and the leadership, is very largely attributed to a dreadful, and falsely grounded, smear campaign in which he was alleged to have a central part in a ‘cover-up’ of child sexual exploitation involving police, Labour councillors, paid council officials and partner agencies (read more here).

The FIPs are enthusiastic promoters of that narrative and are closely linked to, and indeed have part funded, a Tameside political activist responsible for orchestrating the smear campaign.

Raja Miah, who is that disgraced activist, is presently on police bail, including a night time curfew, over suspicions of racially aggravated public order and malicious communications offences. He was arrested in a dawn raid involving six Greater Manchester Police officers on his Mossley home in July, 2021.

All his electronic devices were seized in a subsequent search of his home. He robustly denies any wrongdoing and claims his arrest was ‘politically motivated’ (read more here).

His supporters, who self-style themselves as ‘The Rabble’, were organised to make concerted complaints to the newspaper regulator, IPSO, following reporting of the arrest in The Oldham Times as being in connection with Operation Hexagon, an investigation into allegations of child sex abuse, which was ‘the line to take’ provided to reporters by GMP. The article has not been removed by the publisher and an outcome to the IPSO complaints are expected next month.

As recently as seven weeks ago, Cllr Wilkinson re-affirmed his support for Miah on the Twitter social media site. He described the persistent, thoroughly unpleasant, divisive, hate campaign run on Miah’s various on-line platforms – with the alleged CSE ‘cover-up’ as its centrepiece – as a ‘search for the truth’. The only ‘truth’, in reality, is that Mark Wilkinson owes his place in the Council chamber almost entirely to Miah – and there is a debt of gratitude to be repaid.

Mark Wilkinson and his wife, Kathleen Wilkinson, have both previously appeared on Recusant Nine’s infamous Sunday night podcasts as star guests (view here). One of his fellow FIPs councillors, Brian Hobin, has appeared with Raja Miah at least twice. He, too, is a major proponent of the fallacious ‘grooming cover-up for Asian block votes’ narrative.

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Disproved in its entirety a year ago with an article published elsewhere on this website headlined ‘Get the White Vote Angry‘ (read in full here).

The Fielding complaint concerns an abusive, in parts untruthful and, very arguably, defamatory email sent by Cllr Wilkinson on 15th July, 2021 to all the other fifty-nine elected Members on Oldham Council in which he was almost the sole subject in a lengthy and highly personalised attack. It was published, exclusively, elsewhere on this website, on 21st August, 2021 (read more here).

The email, headed Abuse and Intimidation of Councillors was also copied to the then chief executive Dr Carolyn Wilkins OBE, who has since left; Strategic Director of Communications, Rebekah Sutcliffe and Borough Solicitor, Paul Entwistle. Presumably, in an attempt to further damage Sean Fielding, by then a member of the public. 

The alleged breaches of the Council’s Standards are said to include, but are not limited to, the three most serious grounds available: Honesty and Integrity, Accountability and Discreditable Conduct. The Council will now appoint an independent investigator to further consider all the matters in issue.

A complaint was made by Mark Wilkinson against Cllr Fielding when he was a Member of the Council, but was dismissed by an ‘independent person’, at the first stage of the process, and was regarded as poorly drafted by not relating allegations to specific breaches of the Code of Conduct. Other complaints made at the same time and relating to similar matters, by disgraced political activist, Raja Miah, and permanently discontented serial complainer, Jane Barker, met the same fate (read more here).

Another complaint in that same batch, made by Peter Jackson, formerly a police whistleblower but now reduced to a role as a fellow conspiracy theorist of Raja Miah, which had made it through to the Standards Assessment stage of the process, did not progress further. The complaint, concerning a Twitter post in which it was stated he was dismissed from Greater Manchester Police, was partially upheld.

Confusion had arisen because of long-running and highly attritional constructive dismissal action being taken by Mr Jackson, against GMP, via the Employment Tribunal in Manchester.

When first contacted, after the Standards meeting, Sean Fielding was not aware of the latest developments. He says: “I have confidence in the Council’s Standards Process and will co-operate fully with the investigation into my complaint. I will not be making any further public comment until the investigation is concluded, so as to safeguard the integrity of the process.”

It is also known that another complaint against Cllr Wilkinson, alleging breaches at least as serious, if not more so, as the one outlined here, is about to be filed with Oldham Council. Its submission was deferred, pending the outcome of the Assessment Committee’s deliberations. It now seems certain that it will pass along the same Standards procedures through to investigation.

Mark Wilkinson has been offered right of reply. Both he, and the ever-controversial FIPs more generally, feature regularly elsewhere on this website (read here), but are yet to take up any similar invitations.

A disastrous attempt to silence the author of this article, Neil Wilby, was made recently by Cllr Wilkinson via law firm, Harold Stock and Co. A ‘cease and desist’ letter backfired, spectacularly, on him and the instructed solicitor, Darren McGuinness. He claims that articles such as this one are a ‘smear campaign’ against him and his Party, rather than fair, public interest reporting of his, and their, ever-lengthening list of misdemeanours.

A report on that debacle can be read here. It is a tale of an elected representative, a former police officer, no less, whom along with his Party Chairwoman wife, believe they can steamroller any form of scrutiny and considers themselves above the law, or any other form of regulatory or Standards requirements.

That, Cllr Wilkinson, is not how politics works. If you cannot bear fourth estate oversight then, perhaps, you ought to very seriously consider vacating your seat?

Page last updated at 0905hrs on Saturday 23rd October, 2021.

Corrections: Please let me know if there is a mistake in this article. I will endeavour to correct it as soon as possible.

Right of reply: If you are mentioned in this article and disagree with it, please let me have your comments. Provided your response is not defamatory it will be added to the article.

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© Neil Wilby 2015-2021. Unauthorised use, or reproduction, of the material contained in this article, without permission from the author, is strictly prohibited. Extracts from, and links to, the article (or blog) may be used, provided that credit is given to Neil Wilby, with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Published by Neil Wilby

Former Johnston Press area managing director. Justice campaigner. Freelance investigative journalist.

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