Calls to sign petition calling for government probe into Hartlepool Council

Councillor Carl Richardson

Councillor Carl Richardson

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A CONCERNED resident has launched a petition calling for the Government to investigate Hartlepool Council.

David Riddle is concerned about funding allocated to the voluntary sector and has called on people to sign the petition which could be debated in the House of Commons if 100,000 people support it.

But council chiefs say the petition is an attempt to try and undermine the new governance arrangements.

Mr Riddle said: “I put the petition forward to try to draw further attention to the situation with the funding allocated to certain voluntary sector organisations.”

It was inspired after concerns were raised over the governance arrangements in place at Who Cares (NE) and concerns following an audit at Manor Residents’ Association, managed by Labour councillor Angie Wilcox.

The petition comes at the same time as an ongoing public inquiry into the interests of councillors and their links to the voluntary and community sector after a Local Government Association Peer Review raised major concerns.

But Mr Riddle, 35, believes the scope of the inquiry is too restricted and has called for a full Government-led investigation.

Mr Riddle added: “Such an inquiry should leave no stone unturned and sort out these issues once and for all.”

The petition, which has been signed by 173 people so far, reads: “People in Hartlepool are strongly concerned about financial practise in Hartlepool Borough Council.

“Specifically involving elected councillors working for, funding, and drawing wages from voluntary sector organisations.

“The people of Hartlepool would welcome a full investigation by the government into our Labour controlled council.”

Labour councillor Carl Richardson, deputy leader of Hartlepool Council, said: “The current, independent public inquiry, carried out by barrister Tom Mitchell, will examine the council’s commissioning and grant-funding arrangements with the voluntary and community sectors.

“It must be emphasised that it was councillors who instigated the inquiry in an attempt to draw a line under the accusations and innuendo made by a very small minority of local individuals.

“The e-petition is clearly another attempt by the same individuals to try and undermine the new governance arrangements in Hartlepool which are working extremely well.”

But councillors Jonathan Brash and Pamela Hargreaves, who refers to himself as independent Labour but are classed as independent on the council website, have signed it.

Coun Brash said: “There is a perception that some councillors are acting with a complete lack of integrity and are only interested in themselves.

“We need to end this and a wholesale investigation may just be the way to do it.”

The petition is available at http://epetitions.direct.gov.uk/petitions/51441