Hartlepool council backs combined authority, despite pleas for more public consultation

Pushing ahead: Councillor Christopher Akers-Belcher.
Pushing ahead: Councillor Christopher Akers-Belcher.

MOVES for Hartlepool to be part of a new combined authority are to go ahead despite several calls from some councillors for more opportunity for the public to say if they want it.

Councillors voted in favour of pushing ahead with the plan at a heated full council meeting.

It was despite several attempts by some councillors to secure wider consultation with the public.

A bid for a town referendum on the issue by Putting Hartlepool First member David Riddle was defeated at a previous meeting.

Members of the public reacted angrily as councillors voted 19 to 12 in favour of pushing ahead with the plan.

Council leader Coun Christopher Akers-Belcher said: “It’s important to say again this is not about recreating Cleveland County Council.

“The focus will be on economic development, skills and transport and put us in an ideal position to accelerate economic development and prosperity for Hartlepool.”

A combined authority will see Hartlepool work jointly with the four other Tees Valley councils on economic development, transport, infrastructure, employment and skills.

Councillors Jonathan Brash, Paul Thompson and Geoff Lilley unsuccessfully tried to get the council to hold a postal vote, a meeting at the Borough Hall, an online vote and extended consultation period.

All were ruled out of order by ceremonial mayor Stephen Akers-Belcher and chief solicitor Peter Devlin.

Coun Brash said he was not against the principle of the plan, but said people should be allowed to have their say.

“The Government wants us to formally merge and move government away from smaller towns like Hartlepool into much larger authorities,” he said. “This is the starting gun towards that.”

Coun Paul Thompson said: “The electorate in Hartlepool are being denied that opportunity to voice their opinions.”

Outgoing Putting Hartlepool First Coun Geoff Lilley said: “The reality is once this authority is created they will want more and more powers.

“If we go down that road and allow that to happen we will become nothing more than a parish council.”

A draft scheme will now be referred to the Secretary of State when

Mr Devlin said there would be further consultation.