‘Disappointment’ for Putting Hartlepool First as Labour and Conservative councillors to chair committees

CONTESTED: David Riddle
CONTESTED: David Riddle

COUNCILLORS have decided which members should chair the various council committees despite several posts being contested.

The Labour group was awarded the majority of the chairmanship posts with the Conservative group picking up two. That meant Putting Hartlepool First (PHF) will not chair any policy committees, despite being the second largest party on the council.

PHF spokesman councillor David Riddle said he was willing to give up his special responsibility allowance if he was voted chairman of the audit and governance committee, calling for the allowance to be put towards creating new apprenticeships.

But with support from Labour and Conservative councillors, Conservative group leader Ray Martin-Wells was voted chair of that committee.

Speaking afterwards, Coun Riddle said: “I am disappointed and given the large savings the authority needs to make I thought it was a sensible gesture to make, to use the allowance for something quite meaningful.”

Councillor Jonathan Brash contested the chairmanship of adult services and made a similar gesture, but Labour councillor Carl Richardson was voted chair with the support of Labour and Conservative councillors.

The third chairmanship position contested was the chair of licensing, with Conservative councillor George Morris successfully voted chair over PHF councillor Geoff Lilley.

Council leader Christopher Akers-Belcher will chair finance and policy committee, Labour’s Peter Jackson neighbourhood services, Labour’s Robbie Payne regeneration services and Labour’s Chris Simmons children’s services, with Labour councillor Rob Cook chair of planning.

There is still the odd vacant committee position left to fill. Dave Stubbs, chief executive, said: “There are still some vacancies which will be decided on at the next full council meeting.”

There was also fresh calls from Coun Brash for more evening meetings, to enable more members of the public and working councillors to attend. Coun Brash said: “It is what is best for the public that we serve, restricting meetings to day-time only stops their involvement.”

Recent Local Election results saw Labour maintain overall control with 19 out of the 33 seats. Putting Hartlepool First is second largest with five members, Conservatives three and UKIP two, with the remaining seats held by independents.

The council has previously stated under national legislation, it 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.