Labour delighted with final result

DELIGHTED Labour councillors believe the committee system is more “democratic” and they claim it will save the council £1m over the next 10 years.

Around a dozen Labour supporters, who had campaigned for the change, cheered when the result was announced around 12.30am.

Labour group leader Christopher Akers-Belcher, speaking to the Mail from Brighton, said: “I welcome the result because it means the people of Hartlepool will have a stronger voice in how the council is run.

“This brings real community democracy back to Hartlepool and decisions will be made by committees rather than just a few individuals.

“There has been a lot of instability over the past 18-months leading up to this so, hopefully, this will bring with it stability.”

Labour councillor Stephen Akers-Belcher said the move to a committee system, the cost of which is still to be established, will save £1m in allowances over the next 10 years before a referendum can be held again.

He added: “It is an old system but a new era in terms of governance and everybody has a part to play to make sure that the governance and the reputation of the council is preserved and protected.”

He added Hartlepool was the first place to move back from having a directly elected mayor to a committee system.

Labour councillor Carl Richardson added: “This has been a good day for democracy as this is a more accountable system for the people of Hartlepool.

“We will no longer have decisions made by one, two or three people.”

Independent councillor John Lauderdale, the only cabinet member to attend the count, said: “The electorate have given a clear indication that they did not want a mayoral system.

“I would like to see a smooth transition.”

Conservative group leader Ray Wells, who had indicated he would have been standing as a mayoral candidate had the vote gone the other way, said it was clear people had become “disenfranchised” with the elected mayor system.

Coun Wells said: “The Conservative Group made it quite clear we would be happy to work with whatever the public of Hartlepool decided and we look forward to working with all political parties in forming a workable committee system, that will ultimately benefit the taxpayers of this town.

“I hope Stuart has the good grace to work with elected back bench members in his remaining time as elected mayor and will not use his powers to block policy or make life difficult.”

Geoff Lilley, leader of Putting Hartlepool First, was a firm supporter of the mayoral system which he believes was the most stable option and he said the committee structure favours the Labour group.

Coun Lilley said: “The committee structure is the view of the people of Hartlepool and I’m sure that everybody will work to make it a success.

“It will be a struggle for people outside the main parties to have an influence but we will all work to make the system work.”