Concerns raised over who chairs various council committee posts in Hartlepool

CANDIDATE: David Riddle, Putting Hartlepool First candidate for Hart Ward
CANDIDATE: David Riddle, Putting Hartlepool First candidate for Hart Ward

URGENT calls have been made for fairer representation when it comes to deciding which councillors chair various council committees.

Hartlepool Borough Council’s recent Local Elections saw Labour maintain overall control of the council chamber with 19 out of the 33 seats.

But ahead of a crunch full council meeting on Tuesday, June 10, to decide which councillors hold the positions of chair and vice-chair of the various committees, some disgruntled councillors have called for fairer representation.

Putting Hartlepool First is the second largest party with five members, Conservatives have three and UKIP two. The other remaining seats are held by independent councillors.

Councillor David Riddle, Putting Hartlepool First spokesman, wants the committee chair system to be more “proportionate”.

He said: “It seems highly likely the Conservative group, who make up just nine per cent of the council, will gain several committee chairs. PHF, UKIP and the independent councillors make up collectively 33 per cent of the council, yet are likely to hold zero committee chairs between them.

“Given that the whole rationale for spending a lot of money on a referendum to remove the mayoral system was supposedly to facilitate a more democratic, representative system, obviously given that 33 per cent of the make up of the council look likely to hold zero per cent of the committee chairs, hardly smacks of a more democratic system.

“Although the formal composition of this years committee system will not be known for certain until the council meeting, it does seem highly likely that the chairs will again be dramatically disproportionate to the actual make up of the council.”

Councillor Jonathan Brash, who refers to himself as independent Labour but is classed as independent by the council, said: “The new system of governance was supposed to reflect the will of the residents of Hartlepool when it comes to who holds sway in their town hall.

“Sadly though the allocation of positions is wholly disproportionate to the way the town voted last month.”

A council spokesman said: “Under the national legislation, the council needs to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, that the allocation of seats on its committees and certain outside bodies is representative of the political groups which make up the council, however that requirement does not extend to the allocation of chairmanships and vice-chairmanships.

“A meeting of the full council on 10th June will formally make appointments to those committees and to the outside bodies.” The meeting starts at 7pm in the Civic Centre, in Victoria Road.