A SADDLEWORTH Parish councilor has vowed to continue serving the community despite calls for him to resign after being sentenced for downloading indecent images of naked young boys.
Michael Buckley, 68, was found guilty by a jury at Minshull Street Crown Court in December of 16 counts of making – referring in these instances to downloading – the images.
Returning for his sentence in January, he was told by Judge Jonathan Foster QC that he has “lived an exemplary and upstanding life” but this trial was a “public fall from grace”.
But Cllr Buckley, who was re-elected in May 2015 for four years – insists he will continue his work as an independent Parish Councillor despite calls for him to stand down.
Cllr Buckley, who has served on the Parish Council since 2007, said: “I do not wish to comment on the sentence.
“Individuals’ views on whether I should stand down from the Parish Council are just that – their views.
“I do not intent to enter into a sparing match with other members of the Parish Council, Oldham Council or other politicians, who may choose to express their opinions on my conviction.
“My responsibility is to those who elected me to the Council. I intend to carrying on doing that to the best of my abilities.
“I intend to continue my work defending and promoting the best interest of Saddleworth, commenting and helping on heritage and planning issues and working on the many improvement projects that I am presently engaged in.”
Cllr Buckley’s defiance comes after chairman of the Saddleworth Parish Council Neil Allsopp issued a statement calling for him to step down.
Cllr Allsopp said: “Following the conviction of Cllr Buckley and the sentence passed, it is my personal opinion it would be inappropriate for Cllr Buckley to continue to serve on Saddleworth Parish Council.
“I have subsequently invited him to tender his resignation. I believe this is in the best interests of all concerned.
“Furthermore, it is my intention to refer the matter to the borough solicitor for investigation under the Members’ Code of Conduct.”
Other independent Parish Councillors Rob Knotts, Nikki Kirkham, Keith Lucas, Katrina Roman, Geoff Bayley and Lesley Brown have issued a statement disassociating themselves from Cllr Buckley.
They said: “Cllr Buckley’s conviction is a sad episode in his long-standing contribution to public service.
“Throughout his long-term service as both a borough and Parish councillor, Cllr Buckley has been noted for his dedication to his work.
“However his conviction could seriously undermine his position with the Parish Council, his colleagues and those he represents.
“As a result of his conviction Cllr Buckley, in our opinion, has violated a Councillor’s Code of Conduct.
“Therefore our position is that as independent councillors we disassociate ourselves from Cllr Buckley.”
Cllr Knotts added: “The desire to purchase and download indecent images of children creates an illicit market where child exploiters work to satisfy an unacceptable and unsavoury market demand.
“In my opinion in purchasing and downloading the indecent images Councillor Buckley has contributed very forcefully to the harmful exploitation of children.
“Parish Councillors have a responsibility to represent residents of all ages, gender, race, creed and colour in a community. The public office also demands high standards of personal behaviour.
“I view that Cllr Buckley’s unacceptable behaviour and conviction makes his position on the Parish Council untenable. I think he should resign immediately.”
Alan Belmore, leader of the Liberal Democrats on Saddleworth Parish Council, added: “Mike Buckley must resign as a councillor for the good of Saddleworth.
“He has put his own ego before the needs of the people he was elected by by remaining as a councillor even after being found guilty.
“If Buckley refuses to do the honourable thing we will move a motion of no confidence in him at the next Parish Council meeting.
“Anyone found guilty of the offences Mike Buckley was convicted for is not fit to be a councillor.”
Labour’s two Saddleworth Parish Councillors have supported Cllr Allsopp’s calls for Cllr Buckley to resign.
Steve Hewitt, said: “I feel Cllr Buckley is bringing the Parish Council into disrepute. He should resign as soon as possible. I feel he is not a fit and proper person to be a councillor.”
Cllr Paul Fryer endorsed the calls, saying: “I deplore his actions, he should resign.”
Branch Press Officer, John Brooks, added: “Our members understand many people think Cllr Buckley has given a lot of his time serving the people of Saddleworth.
“However that does not mean he can now carry on. I find it hard to believe that the voters of Dobcross want him to continue to represent them.”
Labour Parish Councillors have indicated they would support a ‘no confidence’ vote at the next Parish Council meeting.
Labour Party Branch Secretary, Andrew Sayers added: “We do not support witch hunts, but at our next members meeting we will consider if there is anything else we can do to have this councillor removed if he has not already resigned.”
And the Conservative Parish Councillors joined to the calls for Cllr Buckley to resign immediately, saying he has no place on Saddleworth Parish Council.
Conservative Parish Council Group Leader Cllr John Hudson said: “I, along with all my colleagues, are unanimous in calling upon independent councillor Mike Buckley to resign immediately.
“We believe it would be inappropriate for Councillor Buckley to continue to serve on Saddleworth Parish Council.”
Newly-elected Conservative Parish Councillor Jamie Curley added: “As a group we are extremely uncomfortable with his presence on the Parish Council.
“I have spoken to numerous people from Diggle, Dobcross and the rest of Saddleworth who are simply livid that he will not go. He should go now.
“We agree with Conservative Parish Councillor and Parish Council Chairman Neil Allsopp when he said it is his intention to refer the matter to the borough solicitor for investigation.”