RIVAL councillors say they are hoping to forge a good “working relationship” despite a strained start to the municipal year.

Farnworth and Kearsley First now have two of the three seats in the previously all-Labour Farnworth ward after recent election victories for councillors Paul Sanders and Maureen Flitcroft.

That leaves Jean Gillies as the sole remaining representative from the ruling Labour group – which has been the subject of strong criticism from the political newcomers.

Cllr Sanders claims there has been a ‘communication breakdown’ between himself and Cllr Gillies, as he has been unable to contact her via social media or telephone.

And Cllr Gillies says there does need to be a working relationship between herself and the Farnworth and Kearsley First contingent — but she cannot discuss her often “sensitive” casework with other councillors.

Cllr Sanders said the recent communication problems had been “disappointing” given recent comments made by Cllr Gillies in The Bolton News appearing to offer an olive branch.

He said: “In a couple of days it seems to have fallen apart, but me and Jean are communicating via email and from our point of view trying to hopefully come to some kind of agreement where we can work together.

“We have to have a working relationship, it’s so important.”

Cllr Sanders says the strong criticism of Farnworth’s Labour councillors and their party made by Farnworth and Kearsley First since its inception was one reason for the problems between them.

He said: “It must be difficult but, in saying that, she is a professional, and as far as I’m aware, whenever I’ve met her, she is a councillor who is always busy with casework and working hard."

Adding that he was confident a way forward could be found he said it was important to have an “open dialogue” with Cllr Gillies and that the interests of Farnworth people are put above “party political nonsense”.

Cllr Gillies, who has been a Farnworth ward councillor since 2011, also acknowledged the need to work with her fellow ward representatives despite their political differences.

She said: “We’re going to have to. But what I’m saying is if it’s my casework I’m not going to share somebody’s details all over the show.

“Unless it’s on a grander scale, like development things, residents’ casework stays with me, it doesn’t get shared.”

And she said that Farnworth and Kearsley First should do more to stop personal criticism about her by their supporters.

Cllr Gillies said she came under attack after sharing an update on the travellers' situation at Fern Street on Facebook.

She said: “All I did was put an update about what was going on and I got absolutely slated for it. I ended up deleting them and blocking them.”

“If I defend myself I get absolutely slated. Am I not allowed to defend myself?

"I get abuse from people in the street. I should be able to go shopping in my own town, but I can’t.

“They have got to remember I have children, I have grandchildren and I have a husband.”

But she added: “There has to be a working relationship, but they [the Farnworth and Kearsley First councillors]have to remember they are Bolton borough councillors.

"In my ward I am doing things I have been working on for months and months, but I’m not going to share personal stuff, a lot of stuff I deal with is sensitive.”

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