FOUR RESOLUTE SADDLEWORTH Parish Councillors quit their monthly meeting after refusing to take part alongside convicted colleague Cllr Mike Buckley.
Cllr Buckley was found guilty at Manchester Crown Court in January of downloading indecent images of young boys but has refused to resign despite calls from the council.
In September when he attended the monthly council meeting at the Civic Hall in Uppermill, Cllr Steve Hewitt walked out.
Then at the most recent meeting in October, Cllr Buckley’s attendance prompted Cllr Robert Knotts to leave, while Cllrs Jamie Curley, Nikki Kirkham and Hewitt had already sent their apologies.
In a joint statement the four councillors said: “In September, to the surprise of many, Councillor Buckley attended the monthly Parish Council meeting.
“His attendance prompted Cllr Hewitt to walk out. Cllr Knotts and Cllr Curley would have followed but had important issues to address during the meeting.
“At our latest meeting, Cllr Buckley attended again. Cllr Knotts publicly advised his fellow councillors he could not sit at the same table as a convicted child sex offender who had not shown any remorse for his behaviour or even acknowledged he had done anything wrong.
“Cllr Knotts invited other councillors to show their disapproval of Cllr Buckley’s attendance. Cllr Nikki Kirkham, Cllr Steve Hewitt and Cllr Jamie Curley had already left the meeting in protest at Cllr Buckley’s attendance.”
The statement added: “Not one Liberal Democrat showed disapproval of Cllr Buckley’s attendance despite public statements made to the effect that anyone supporting Cllr Buckley should hang their heads in shame.”
Cllr Alan Belmore, leader of the Lib Dems on Saddleworth Parish Council, argued they kept their seats at the meeting to fulfil their duty to represent and act on behalf of the community.
He said: “These councillors are guilty of rank hypocrisy. They had numerous opportunities to actually do something about Cllr Buckley.
“The Independents could have chosen to not support his election campaign whilst he was under arrest for his crimes.
“They could have voted with the Liberal Democrats trying to remove him by not accepting his apologies to meetings following his conviction. They failed time and time again.
“Yet they have the nerve to criticise us for not partaking in a gesture which will achieve nothing. Saddleworth elected us to represent them on the matters which affect them every day. We have a duty to turn up and represent them.
“Whilst those councillors were sat in Java moaning, the Liberal Democrats on the council were discussing matters such as disabled access at Greenfield station, the impact of the closure of the road bridge over the railway line in Greenfield and modernising the Civic Hall.
“Those same councillors happily sat next to Buckley last month. They’re letting their electorate down – they have a duty to be in the council chamber – not a coffee shop.”
The four councillors have written to Debbie Abrahams, MP for Oldham East and Saddleworth, asking for a progress report on a meeting held earlier this year with Marcus Jones, minister for local government, to discuss the issue.