A LABOUR councillor has launched a High Court libel action against a former employee who claims he owes her more than £2,000 in back pay.

Cllr Mahfooz Hussain is suing former care worker Shazia Barlas for defamation over a string of Facebook posts, in which she is said to blast the Shear Brow and Corporation Park representative.

The 59-year-old, of East Park Road, Blackburn, has also accused Mrs Barlas of harassment over the social media posts and is seeking an injunction to prevent any repeat of her claims.

Manchester Civil Justice Centre heard that the comments were posted after Mrs Barlas was dismissed from her post with Cllr Hussain’s firm Home Care for You in November 2016.

Not only did she post accusations on her own Facebook account but she also made comments on Labour Party sites.

Kate Wilson, representing Cllr Hussain, said he strongly denied his ex-employee’s claims and was seeking damages for the harm to his reputation.

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His legal team had asked the court to enter a judgement in default, after Mrs Barlas failed to acknowledge service of the claim or come up with a defence.

Mrs Barlas, who represented herself in court, said she was in possession of a number of text messages which would prove she was owed money by Cllr Hussain.

Judge Nigel Bird, senior circuit judge for Manchester, ruled that the care worker should be given the chance to explain her actions.

Adjourning the case for four weeks to allow Mrs Barlas to file a defence to the claims, Judge Bird said while the particulars of the claim ran to 16 pages, the issue between the parties was essentially a straightforward one.

He told the court Mrs Barlas claimed she was owed around £2,000, or the equivalent of five weeks’ wages.

Cllr Hussain had made an approach to resolve the dispute via the small claims court, the hearing was told, but this had been rejected by his former employee.

The judge said Mrs Barlas had been able to outline “she had a realistic prospect” of defending the contentious posts.

Judge Bird, who had already noted the outcome of any libel action could be “ruinous” for Mrs Barlas, ordered her to pay costs of £3,300 for the aborted judgement hearing though. Cllr Hussain’s lawyers had originally applied for £6,274.

The judge also advised Mrs Barlas to seek legal advice, either through the Citizen’s Advice Bureau or other channels, before the next hearing.