SADDLEWORTH PARISH Council has renewed its calls for convicted sex offender Mike Buckley to resign as councillors voted to a support a move to change the law.
Cllr Buckley was sentenced in January after being found guilty by a crown court jury of downloading indecent images of naked young boys.
He has to take part in an Internet Sexual Offenders Treatment Programme, had a 28-day curfew and is subject to a Sexual Harm Prevention Order for five years.
But Cllr Buckley has insisted he will not step down from the Parish Council, despite calls for his resignation from chairman Cllr Neil Allsopp and a 700-strong petition.
At the Parish Council meeting in April, which Cllr Buckley did not attend, councillors backed a motion to ‘support the Chairman and others in seeking to change the law to prevent any convicted child sex offender from serving as an elected official or officer of any public body’.
The motion continued: ‘We believe such individuals are unfit to be part of any such body, including being a member of Saddleworth Parish Council. We call upon any member of the council found guilty of such an offence to resign.’
There were 16 votes in favour of the motion, which was proposed by Cllr Jamie Curley, and one abstention from Cllr Lesley Brown.
Cllr Curley said: “Cllr Buckley’s refusal to stand down shows utter contempt not just for the Parish Council but for the people of Saddleworth.
“It is clear that by refusing to listen to the people that he has absolutely no remorse for his actions. If he had any shred of respect for Saddleworth he would go, and go now!”
Supporting the motion, Cllr Keith Lucas said: “I have asked Cllr Buckley repeatedly as a fellow Independent councillor if he would stand down and offer his apologies.
“He has to stop shielding himself behind the legal framework which is protecting him from being de-selected. He has to ask himself the moral question: ‘In the eyes of the public have I let the electorate down?”
And Cllr Alan Belmore said: “We have to be clear there is no place on this Council for people who commit crimes like he has. I do not think Cllr Buckley is fit to be a councillor and he should resign.”
On May 4, Cllrs Allsopp, Rob Knotts, Nikki Kirkham, Debbie Abrahams MP and local campaigner Holly Wood are meeting Marcus Jones, Minister for Local Government, to discuss legislative proposals.
Cllr Knotts said: “I will stress we want to make this change of law retrospective. It is important we get this message out that we will not accept this sort of person representing the community.”
But Cllr Katrina Roman said: “Changing the law is no easy feat and it will be time consuming and a long process. What do we do in the meantime? We need to make a stand as a Council.”
Councillors also passed a motion – with 11 votes in favour, five against and one abstention – that ‘Only the Chairman and Vice Chairman of the Parish Council, and Chairmen and Vice Chairmen of Parish sub-committees, should attend the Parish Council and Community Associations’ Forum to represent the Parish Council. Other Parish Councillors may attend at the invitation of the Forum Chairman to speak on specific agenda items’.
The Community Associations’ Forum brings together representatives from the Parish Council and each of Saddleworth’s village to discuss local issues, but is not a public meeting.
Cllr Paul Fryer, who proposed the motion and chairs the Forum meetings, said: “Everyone who needs to be there will be. If we need to hear from other specific councillors they can be invited.”
Cllr Roman added: “Let’s call a spade a spade. Clearly this motion has been called because Cllr Mike Buckley attended the last meeting and we don’t want that to happen again.”
Defiant Parish Councillor Steve Hewitt walked out of the Forum’s meeting in April to stick to his promise of not sharing a meeting with Cllr Buckley.
He said: “Unless we all take a stance and the law is changed then Cllr Buckley will have leave to attend full council and other committee meetings as a resident, which is totally untenable.
“I find his behaviour abhorrent and unforgivable and as well as those Parish Councillors who do support his return.”