‘This Council is being run like a circus full of clowns’

Lewis Quigg in civic chamber

A dramatic headline, drawn from the very recent words of Cllr Lewis Quigg (pictured above) in a scathing attack about Oldham Metropolitan Borough Council on which he sits as a Member of the Conservative Party.

For context, the post on the ‘Oldham Conservatives’ Facebook page earlier this week is reproduced here in full:

“Oldham Council has decided to shift the Full Council meeting to 2.30pm in the afternoon [of 14th December, 2022] because it allegedly clashes with the World Cup. That’s right. Senior officers clocking off early!

“The meeting is always at 6:00pm so members of the public and Councillors who work or have caring responsibilities can attend.

This Council is being run like a circus full of clowns. At the drop of a hat the Council decides to clock off for the match. Given the Council meeting is meant to discuss serious business at taxpayers expense, this is nothing short of disenfranchisement and anti-democratic. Just move the meeting by a day, for goodness sake”.

An article published yesterday on Neil Wilby Media, headlined ‘Football trumps democracy in downtrodden borough‘ was on much the main theme (read here), but with the author unaware of Cllr Quigg’s and the Oldham Conservatives’ stance on the issue.

The concluding paragraph of that article (for those that have not already read it) says:

“The Council has been asked to provide a rationale for the decision – and a timeline that will assist the public (and media) in understanding how, when and who made the decision to change the start time of the meeting – and why soundings from such as the author of this article, Neil Wilby, whom routinely live blogs these gatherings, were not taken”.

An interim response was provided by a Council spokesperson, to the effect that the decision to change the start time of the council to accommodate an outside chance of the England men’s football team reaching the semi-final stage of the 2022 World Cup had been agreed by the four Group Leaders: Cllr Amanda Chadderton (Labour), Cllr Howard Sykes MBE (Liberal Democrats), Cllr Graham Sheldon (Conservatives) and Cllr Brian Hobin (Failsworth Independent Party).

A further response may come from the Council early next week, particularly in the light of England’s expected defeat by an injury-hit France.

In the meantime, well placed sources say that one of the four Group Leaders, Cllr Sykes, was presented with a ‘done deal’ over the change of time, having expressed concerns over the impact on at least some of that Party’s elected Members. His proposal to start the meeting at the usual time of 6pm and adjourn to the following day, if a majority of councillors agreed and if England were actually playing on that evening.

What has also emerged is that Cllr Sheldon did not consult Cllr Quigg or the other three Oldham Conservatives; Cllr Dave Arnott, Cllr Robert Barnes or Cllr Bethany Sharp over the new start time for the meeting. The latter has missed several meetings during this municipal year, citing ‘work commitments’, so she is very likely to be affected by the change.

From contact with several Labour Party councillors it is apparent that a significant number of their Group put football before what their ward constituents elected them to do and, moreover, shied away from widely-held concerns over horrific human rights abuses in Qatar, chosen as hosts of the World Cup this year after what is now well-recognised as a corrupt process, and rampant homophobia which is embedded in their culture.  Made even more surprising as Cllr Chadderton is the first ever openly gay Leader in Oldham’s history – and a vocal LBQT and Pride supporter.

It is trite that the three male FIP councillors, Cllr Hobin, Cllr Neil Hindle and Cllr Mark Wilkinson are avid football fans. Although they shun their local team, Oldham Athletic, in favour of the Arab-owned Manchester City. It is also uncontroversial to say that representing a town such as Failsworth, and the dark corners of its infamous on-line presence, would not give them too many sleepless nights over human rights or homophobic abuse (or racist abuse, for that matter).

The four Group Leaders will be offered right of reply – and the matters reported in this article are now certain to be raised in the early-starting Council meeting next week in what promises to be a lively debate.

Page last updated Sunday 11th December, 2022 at 1420hrs

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Picture credits: Oldham Council

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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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