Blackpool council leader's apology over 'IRA' comment

Coun Simon Blackburn
Coun Simon Blackburn
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Blackpool Council leader Coun Simon Blackburn has officially apologised for a remark made at a meeting of the full council in June.

A complaint was made after Coun Blackburn referred to a new group of independent councillors as the ‘IRA’.

READ MORE: 'IRA' complaint referred to town hall monitor

The complaint was investigated by the council’s independent monitoring officer leading to the apology.

Coun Debbie Coleman, who set up the new group after leaving the Labour group, wrote to the council’s chief executive Neil Jack to raise her concerns.

But today she said she would not accept the apology, and questioned the way the issue had been handled by the council in comparison with complaints against Coun Ian Coleman who had to step down from the Mayoralty.

At Wednesday’s full council meeting, Coun Blackburn apologised for his comments.

He said: “I made what I thought was a joke about the name of the new independent group.

“I understand a number of people have taken offence at that. That was not my intention and I would like to apologise for that.”

Coun Debbie Coleman said: “We feel the simple apology the leader of the council was asked to make calls into question the severity of the sanctions taken against Coun Ian Coleman when he had to step down from the Mayoralty in March earlier this year.

“It seems to us greater empathy was given to Coun Blackburn, as leader of the council, than to former Mayor Coun Ian Coleman.

“Where Coun Blackburn was asked to make an apology for his comments, Coun Ian Coleman was told he would have to stand down from the Mayoralty for his.

“After attending nearly 200 engagements during his term of office with no issues it seemed to us quite strange that he was treated so poorly.

“The irony is it has taken over eight weeks for the monitoring officer to decide on Coun Blackburn’s case, it took less than two weeks in the case of Ian.”

Coun Debbie Coleman said had the decision taken longer in Coun Ian Coleman’s case, he would have seen out his term of office.

At the full meeting of the council on June 27 Coun Blackburn said he was “happy to propose” his report “and welcome the formation of the IRA.”

Three complaints over comments made by Coun Ian Coleman at a single event in the presence of young people were made to the council, which investigated the claims leading to him stepping down from the Mayoralty in March.

A Blackpool Council spokesman said: “In relation to both matters, the same due process was followed and the same council appointed independent person was consulted as part of both processes.

“The first complaint was assessed to be of a more serious nature which required an early decision.

“With regard to the second complaint the outcome was an apology which was made at the earliest opportunity at the next full council meeting.

“Elected members are entitled to have complaints against them considered in private and are concluded when due process has finished. It is the not the role of the council meeting to debate them in an open forum.”