Council leader says there are no plans to alter time of meetings

A meeting in full flow in Hartlepool Borough Council's chamber.
A meeting in full flow in Hartlepool Borough Council's chamber.

The leader of Hartlepool’s Labour-led council has said there are no plans to change the times of meetings to daylight hours during winter after rivals hit out at the suggestion.

UKIP and independent councillors on the authority have issued scathing comments against the proposal the full council sessions could be moved to 2pm from 7pm during the months of October through to February.

Hartlepool Borough Council leader Christopher Akers-Belcher.

Hartlepool Borough Council leader Christopher Akers-Belcher.

The idea, along with a proposal for evening meetings to start at 6pm, was recommended for consideration by the Constitutional Working Group and is expected to be discussed at Tuesday’s full council meeting.

But Councillor Christopher Akers-Belcher, leader of the ruling Labour group, has said there are no plans to change the timings.

He said: “This was debated at full council on January 21 and there was no will from any councillor to change the timings of the meetings.”

But UKIP and the independent members believe the matter is still up for debate.

This was debated at full council on January 21 and there was no will from any councillor to change the timings of the meetings.

Coun Christopher Akers-Belcher

Councillor John Tennant, who leads the six-strong UKIP members, said: “It is beyond the pale that our Labour-run council have proposed moving full council meetings to 2pm during the winter months, at a time when many working councillors may not be able to be part of the democratic process.

“This is a cynical ploy by those who want to avoid public debate and speed up the process of council meetings, in order to get their unpopular proposals through without anybody noticing.”

UKIP councillor, Shane Moore, who represents the Harbour and Headland ward, said: “I often work long hours to provide for my young family and I also care about the people of my hometown.

“This sends out a message that anyone thinking of standing for election to represent their community need to be unemployed, very wealthy or retired; otherwise according to Labour you’re not welcome to take part in the democratic process.”

UKIP group leader
 John Tennant.

UKIP group leader John Tennant.

Independent Councillors Paul Thompson, James Black and David Riddle also called for the recommendation to be rejected.

They also say there is a suggestion public questions could be withdrawn.

Coun Thompson said: called the proposals a “direct attack on democracy on this town.”

He added “The change in time of council meetings is a deliberate attempt to exclude working councillors from full council meetings.”

Councillor Paul Thompson.

Councillor Paul Thompson.