HARTLEPOOL Mayor Stuart Drummond paid tribute to councillors and officers during an emotional farewell at his last ever cabinet meeting.
Mayor Drummond, who has been in office since 2002, stands down as directly-elected mayor this weekend after a referendum which will see Hartlepool Borough Council revert to a committee system.
His last ever cabinet committee meeting was held yesterday morning and he paid tribute to the council officers and councillors he has worked closely with over the past 11 years.
Mayor Drummond, who described the experience as “fun”, said: “I would like to thank all the council officers, past and present, who have supported the cabinet over the years, those members who have contributed positively through the scrutiny process and all the cabinet members who have supported me.”
The 39-year-old also thanked the co-opted cabinet members and said he believes the cabinet system has “worked extremely well” with only a small number of decisions called in over the past decade.
Mayor Drummond, who said he had a few more meetings planned before clearing his desk and leaving the Civic Centre, also thanked independent councillor Cath Hill, who has been his deputy mayor for the majority of the 11 years.
He said: “There must have been around 15 councillors in my cabinet over the last 11 years and for the most part it has been a very strong team.
“I’d also like to thank my deputy mayor, Coun Hill, who has been here throughout and has been very loyal.”
Speaking afterwards, Coun Hill said: “Mayor Drummond has always been very articulate from day one, he has always fielded questions and given honest answers and said if he doesn’t know he will get back to you.
“He has always been very loyal to me and I feel privileged to have been his deputy mayor.”
Dave Stubbs, the council’s chief executive, said: “The 11 years that we have worked together has been very fruitful and it has been a pleasure and an honour to work with you.
“I wish you all the very best for the future.”
Speaking afterwards, independent councillor and cabinet member Paul Thompson, added: “Stuart is a Hartlepool lad and has always put the interests of the town at the forefront of every decision.
“Whatever path he chooses to go down, I wish him well and I’m sure he will always be an ambassador for Hartlepool.”
Labour councillor Christopher Akers-Belcher becomes the new leader of the council from Monday, May 6.
Under the new committee system there will be five main committees covering finance and policy, children’s services, adult services, regeneration and neighbourhood services and all will have substantial decision making powers.
There will continue to be two neighbourhood forums, north and coastal and south and central.
The changes will also see the return of a ceremonial Mayor of Hartlepool who will be chosen annually from among the councillors to represent the borough at civic functions.