HARTLEPOOL councillor Stephen Akers-Belcher made history last night after being sworn in as ceremonial mayor in the new-look council.
Complete with civic regalia and mayoral robes, Coun Akers-Belcher received the unanimous backing of fellow councillors inside a packed council chamber.
The Labour councillor is the first ceremonial mayor under the new committee system of governance at Hartlepool Borough Council, after the directly elected mayor post was axed, and he will represent Hartlepool at functions over the next year.
After being voted in, he returned to the chamber wearing the traditional robes, which have been in storage for the past decade, to a large round of applause.
Coun Akers-Belcher said: “I was lucky enough to be the last chairman of council and the first ceremonial mayor of our town under the new arrangements.
“It is a huge honour, I take the role very seriously, and I am looking forward to my year in office.”
He was proposed by Labour councillors Chris Simmons and Paul Beck, who both paid tribute to his dedication to civic life and his fundraising achievements over the past year as council chairman which has seen a staggering £40,000 raised for seven local charities.
Coun Akers-Belcher thanked everyone and described the fundraising year as a “warm up” for the next year when he will be raising money for Macmillan cancer support, Denise Taylor Cancer Trust and Pansies breast cancer support group.
The annual council meeting, attended by civic leaders and dignitaries from around the region, was held last night at the Civic Centre.
Coun Akers-Belcher presented his consort, Labour councillor Christopher Akers-Belcher, with a copy of the Sleeping Beauty painting, while the new ceremonial mayor received a teddy bear dressed as him - complete with civic chains - in return.
The pair become the first civil partnership in the country to hold the positions of ceremonial mayor and leader of council, after Labour group leader Christopher Akers-Belcher took over the reins as council leader last week.
Coun Akers-Belcher paid tribute to his partner’s drive and determination in raising thousands for charity, adding: “Stephen has been wonderful for this town.”
Conservative group leader Ray Wells described the ceremonial mayor as a “fantastic ambassador” for Hartlepool, while Labour councillors Angie Wilcox and Carl Richardson also paid tribute.
Labour councillor Kevin Cranney was voted in as deputy ceremonial mayor.
Douglas Ferriday was the last ceremonial mayor back in 2001-2002.