By Ken Bennett
A DELEGATION of Saddleworth campaigners are to meet a top Government minister next month in a bid to prevent child sex offenders serving as a councillors.
Debbie Abrahams, MP for Oldham East and Saddleworth, has secured the meeting on May 4 in London with Marcus Jones, Minister for Local Government, to discuss the legislative proposals.
It follows the outcry at Cllr Mike Buckley’s refusal to resign from Saddleworth Parish Council after being found guilty in December of downloading indecent images of naked boys.
The MP has already submitted two written questions in Parliament to the Department for Communities and Local Government about the issue.
Now she has invited independent Saddleworth Parish Councillors Nikki Kirkham and Robert Knotts and campaigner Holly Wood to be part of a delegation at the meeting.
They want sex offenders banned from serving as a local authority or parish councillor.
Mrs Abrahams said: “The Minister for Local Government has hinted the government intends to launch a consultation into proposals to bring the legislative rules in line with modern sentencing guidelines later this year.
“But I will be asking for a firm commitment from Government and for them to speed up their response to the troubling situation Saddleworth Parish Council finds itself in.
“The fact Councillor Buckley hasn’t voluntarily resigned, and has defied calls to resign, is regrettable.
“But it has highlighted a loophole in the law which defies common sense and could occur again elsewhere in the country.”
Holly Wood, 32, an airline executive from Dobcross, has already hinted she will organise a petition expressing a vote of no confidence in the Parish Council over the continuing saga.
She said: “My hope from this meeting is Debbie Abrahams will be able to instill some much needed common sense on this matter.
“This could happen to any local authority in the country and for this loophole to be in place so currently Cllr Mike Buckley can remain in his position is frankly startling.
“I want to voice my concerns not only as a resident of Saddleworth but on behalf of survivors of abuse, who have no voice or platform in this country.
“For the hundreds of survivors of abuse residing in Saddleworth and Oldham, seeing Cllr Buckley remain in his position resurrects memories of their own torturous thoughts that brought to the forefront of their minds knowing that his man wants to speak on their behalf.
“I can assure anybody who questions my motives that I am not a troll or instigating a witch hunt. I am morally doing something that is right – an element that is quite frankly lacking from Cllr Buckley.
“A change in the law is needed and that is my end goal.”