A councillor defended the provision of a household item removal service in a town ward in the run-up to the local elections.
A member of the public asked about the service offered in Manor House ward by submitting a question at the last full council meeting.
Resident Mr Dunn asked: “Can the council please explain why the residents of Manor House ward are once again being given a free service for removal of household items, for the third year running so close to the election campaign?
“Also can you explain how this is being funded and why it is only for the Manor House ward?”
Manor House ward is represented by three Labour councillors; Marjorie James, Allan Barclay and Stephen Akers-Belcher.
Coun Akers-Belcher’s seat on the council is one of a number across the town up for election in May.
It is an excellent example of how ward councillors can meet the needs of their residents and proves the worth and value of ward member budgetsCouncillor Marjorie James
Coun James, who is chairman of the Neighbourhood Services Committee, said the service is part of a neighbourhood initiative and is paid for out of ward member budgets.
Coun James said: “It is not, in fact, a free service but part of the Manor House Spring Clean initiative which, as the title suggests, is timed to coincide when the majority of residents will be spring cleaning their homes and throwing out items that they no longer need.
“The Manor House Spring Clean Initiative is funded annually from ward member budgets. It is in the gift of all ward councillors how they spend their budgets as long as the purpose is lawful and benefits their ward or residents in their ward.
“It is an excellent example of how ward councillors can meet the needs of their residents and proves the worth and value of ward member budgets.
“Maintaining a clean, safe and green environment is a key priority for Manor House residents, and this initiative is one of many that have been funded by Manor House ward councillors during 2015-16.”
All 33 Hartlepool councillors receive a yearly budget of £4,500 to spend in their areas. The Manor House Spring Clean initiative cost £2,417 this year, made up of £639 from each of its three councillors, plus a £500 contribution from the Thirteen housing group.
Coun James said a similar scheme operated in Foggy Furze ward in October to remove bulky waste in the run-up to bonfire night.
She said Manor House residents have made full use of the scheme and it is panned to run it again next year when there are no elections for the ward.
“All submissions are subject to an approval process under delegated authority of the director of regeneration and neighbourhoods,” added Coun James.