Will controversy again dog council meeting this evening?

The latest in a long running series of controversial Full Council meetings of Oldham Metropolitan Borough Council takes place this evening (2nd November, 2022) at the town’s Civic Centre this evening.

A report from the last renewal on 7th September, 2022 can be read here.

Talking points are likely to be headed by the ‘will he, won’t he’ appearance of a male councillor arrested and accused of rape on the day after the last council meeting (read more here). Two of the minority parties, and the two independent elected Members, have been ruled out as suspects.

The alleged perpetrator has consistently refused to identify himself and removed suspicion from all other male councillors even though his name is well known across the Borough.

This is in contrast to a Labour councillor, Graham Shuttleworth, currently suspended administratively by his Party over a minor disagreement with his Local Organiser, Tony Short. Although not formally named by either the Council or Labour, Cllr Shuttleworth issued a statement via Neil Wilby Media in order to remove both speculation and suspicion falling on other Labour Members (read more here). 

Cllr Shuttleworth also ruled himself out, emphatically, as the rape suspect. 

Another ‘will he, won’t he’ mystery concerns the Conservative Party’s newly elected Member, Robert Barnes. He went ‘missing’ for a number of weeks amidst concerns for his welfare (read more here) but re-appeared, without notice or explanation at a safeguarding training session for councillors on 26th October, 2022.

That meeting itself caused controversy as only eleven out of sixty councillors turned up, amidst complaints that it had been arranged by chief executive, Harry Catherall, despite it being known to clash with other pre-arranged civic events (read more here)

If Cllr Barnes does appear this evening then he is due to give a formal apology in the chamber following his appalling behaviour, notably and repeatedly disrespecting the Mayor, following the outcome of complaints against him which were decided at a Standards meeting on 20th October, 2022 (read more here). 

It is understood that Cllr Barnes has had the Conservative Party whip removed but remains a member of their group.

The recently announced improved performance of Greater Manchester Police – they came out of Home Office ‘Special Measures’ last week – is also up for discussion as a Liberal Democrat motion has been tabled by Cllrs Sam Al-Hamdani and Cllr Mark Kenyon identifying a number of serious failings and putting them up for debate.  

Also in relation to police matters, it would be highly unusual if an Oldham Council meeting passed off without a fierce argument over the handling of historic child sexual exploitation (CSE) in the Borough. The Home Secretary has ruled out any further inquiry into police and council officer failings identified in a controversial and much-delayed CSE Assurance Review published in June, 2022.

The meeting opens at 5.30pm with prayers and an item of condolence, following the passing of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II.

A number of protesters previously issued with anti-social behaviour warning letters are expected to try to defy the twelve month Civic Centre ban imposed within them (read more here). They include the wife of a sitting Oldham councillor, Kathleen Wilkinson, whom, incidentally, is a close friend and political ally of Cllr Barnes. As is her husband, Cllr Mark Wilkinson and Group Leader of their Failsworth Independent Party, Cllr Brian Hobin.

Another recipient is unemployed Tameside conspiracy theorist, Raja Miah, whose cleverly conceived smear campaign very largely resulted in Cllr Barnes being elected in May.

Page last updated Wednesday 2nd November, 2022 at 1540hrs

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Picture credits: HMCTS

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© 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.

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