Mystery illness belatedly given as reason for councillor’s poor attendance record

Hobin in Council chamber

Disgraced hyper-locals, the Failsworth Independent Party (FIP), recently named by HopeNotHate as a haven for the far right in their town (read report here), have belatedly claimed that serious illness has prevented one of their three elected councillors from fulfilling his duties.

Since they were formed in 2019, scandal and disgrace has never been very far away from FIP: Identified recently by HopeNot Hate as a haven for racists and the far-right (read the ‘Poisoning the debate’ report here) they have attracted regional and national media attention over deplorable tactics and grotesque smear campaign used to oust the former Leader of Oldham Metropolitan Borough Council, Sean Fielding, who had been a councillor in the West ward of Failsworth for nine years until his election defeat, by just 191 votes, in May, 2021 (read more here).

Also identified in the ‘Poisoning the debate’ report is an unemployed political activist from Tameside, Raja Miah, whose constant stream of persistent, mendacious lies, hate and divisive narrative has led to numerous social media bans and an upcoming harassment trial at Manchester Magistrates’ Court in August, 2022. He is presently on court bail, denies wrongdoing and claims his prosecution is ‘politically motivated’ (read more here).

All three of the three leading lights in FIP have appeared as star guests on Miah’s infamous Sunday Night broadcasts on the Recusant Nine platform. Party Chair, Kathleen Wilkinson, whom recently had to delete her Twitter account after admitting she was a ‘liar and a drunk’.

Her husband, Mark Wilkinson, the councillor who displaced Sean Fielding, and also a stranger to the truth on too many occasions, and FIP Group Leader on the Council, Brian Hobin, a convicted fraudster and malicious bully, whose unpleasant demeanour and crass disregard for both protocol and common courtesy have been regrettable features of his council chamber tenure.

The other FIP councillor, Neil Hindle, also elected in May, 2021 has not appeared with Miah but identified himself as a supporter and ‘a mate’ in the Recusant Nine comments section.

It is uncontroversial to say that without that link-up with Miah, FIP would not have ousted Sean Fielding and Cllr Hindle would have also faced a far sterner challenge at the ballot box.

In the past few days, however, it has emerged on social media that Neil Hindle has been seriously ill for at least twelve months and it is very arguable whether he should have stood for election at all. Particularly, as he has a notably poor attendance record at council meetings; the worst, by far, of any elected representative in Oldham and has contributed absolutely nothing on the occasions he has appeared.

But, as has become routine with FIP, the matter of the Hindle illness and how that information is shared with the Failsworth and Oldham Borough public is shrouded in their familiar mix of deceit and sententious piety. This is an abstract from a message posted on the FIP Facebook page on 24th April, 2022:

“The Party is subject to vile and malicious emails every week, and we ask,
what kind of person would take time out, to sit at their keyboard and write such despicable
things, about not only the councillors, but people who simply support the party. We think you would be shocked and disgusted at the content of these messages, just as we are.

“One of our Councillors, Neil Hindle has faced some serious health issues, over the past
year, something we have already addressed in our campaign leaflet. Yet today, we find him
being castigated for his attendance at Council meetings. It’s old news, it’s something any
one of us may face in the next twelve months, and we find it a cruel and spiteful attempt to
shame someone who has been genuinely poorly, but has continued to show his support
whenever possible”.

This was the first public intimation of any kind that Cllr Hindle is, or has been, ill. Apart from those who had seen and read the detail of the FIP election leaflet which had gone out a few days earlier in the two Failsworth wards. The ‘old news’ depiction by FIP is, although typical of their perennial truth stretching,  very strange given that none of the three Labour Councillors in Failsworth, Elaine Garry, Pete Davis and Norman Briggs knew of the Hindle incapacity, and a spokesperson for the Leader of the Council, Cllr Arooj Shah, said she was not aware of the illness, either.

Neither were numerous other prominent Failsworthians who have been approached as to their knowledge of it. Indeed, one posited that it had not prevented Neil Hindle from travelling abroad to watch Manchester City play football.

In a post on the Failsworth Moan Facebook community page on 25th April, 2022, a text message from Brian Hobin, to a member of a well established local family, was published on the same topic:

“Hi [name redacted]

“Some nasty pieces of work on that Moan.

“Who is Lucie Greg? Hiding behind a fake profile?

“I understand she is having a go at Neil’s attendance record. He has stated health issues and doesn’t want or need to provide more personal info. We are aware of it as a team and are working with him to help him in his role.

“What I will say and I hope you will pass it on to Lucie, Neil Hindle has had the most horrible year, had so much intrusive work and received the words and calls from doctors that no one wants to hear and for some faceless no-mark to have a go at him when they have no idea what he has been through is disgusting.

“He has done nothing to harm anyone on that forum and it is out of order.

“Anyway, just thought I’d let you know.

“Cheers”

This is an extraordinary missive, on any view, for a serving councillor to send on the subject of a fellow councillor’s illness and, in typical Hobin style, causes more problems than it solves.

Firstly, the tone of the message is gratuitously offensive, reflecting again his poor behaviour in the council chamber.

Secondly, it exposes his own deceit and that of the Party he leads. Cllr Hobin admits that Lucie Greg (or anyone else on Failsworth Moan) could not have known about the illness but finds it ‘disgusting’ that a perfectly fair question on a nFailsworth forum about the attendance record of one of its councillors is asked.

Thirdly, it does not explain why Neil Hindle stood for election in May 2021 when this serious illness, according to Cllr Hobin’s own account, was a known entity before then. Neither does it explain why the severely incapacitated councillor has not stood down and a vacancy created that could have been filled at the May, 2022 election.

Fourthly, it does not explain why a public announcement was not made by either Cllr Hindle on his own FIP Facebook page – or on the main FIP page when it became clear he could no longer fulfil his duties as a councillor.

Lastly, it does not explain why the Failsworth electorate, the Council Leader and the other sitting Failsworth councillors have been kept completely in the dark. Or why, on one occasion, Cllr Hindle gave no apology at all to the Council for his absence and on another FIP said he was ‘on holiday’ to excuse another absence in August, 2021.

If Cllr Hindle is as ill as Brian Hobin suggests, then the natural thing to do is wish him well and hope for a full and speedy recovery. There is little or no doubt that the ‘regulars’ on Moan, which include the author of this article, Neil Wilby, would have expressed such sentiments had they known about the illness.

But that has to be now tempered with how badly the whole matter has been handled, not just by him but by those purportedly running FIP.

Public service means just that and, if an elected Member of a Council is no longer capable of providing it, then it is crucial such incapacity is communicated, at the very least, not only to the electorate in his own ward but the wider Oldham Borough whom he represents. It is also incumbent on him (or her) to stand down if no longer fit to serve that same public.

The choice to conceal Neil Hindle’s illness from the rest of the Council and its Leader, by the Failsworth Independent Party, would be regarded as utterly bizarre if it were any other political entity but them. As would the decision to set out to calculatingly smear those with the temerity to ask straightforward public interest questions as to why a councillor is not doing his job.

Page last updated: Tuesday 25th April, 2022 at 1005 hours

Thank you for reading and a polite request: If you wish to make a contribution to the running costs of this website it would be very much appreciated. Donations can made securely, via PayPal at this link.

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

Picture credit: FSP

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.

© Neil Wilby 2015-2022. 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 Media, with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Published by Neil Wilby

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

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: