A COUNCILLOR stormed out of a meeting after refusing to vote to extend the hours in which alcoholic drinks can be served in the cafe of a cemetery where his parents are buried.
Putting Hartlepool First leader Keith Dawkins disagreed with proposals to extend the licence for Inspirations Coffee House, based within Stranton Cemetery, which would allow booze to be served until 9pm every day of the week.
Coun Dawkins said the cafe is within “holy land” and he felt uncomfortable with the plans to extend the licence, which the council insist would only be used for ad-hoc events.
He aired his views at a meeting of the licensing sub committee at Hartlepool Civic Centre and refused to vote on the matter before walking out when he was told he had to approve or reject the application.
Despite the fact he had left the meeting, the council took the views Coun Dawkins had made before he walked out into account and rejected the application on his behalf.
That meant the application was still passed by a majority vote after councillors Ged Hall and Mary Fleet approved the proposals.
Coun Dawkins has now been left fuming at the matter and disputes the vote made on his behalf against the proposals.
He says he disagreed with the application but said he never made a vote for or against before he walked out.
“I feel very uncomfortable about the application on the whole,” said Coun Dawkins.
“It’s holy land. My mum is in there, my dad is in there, my grandmother is in there, my grandfather is in there, I expect to be in there one day.
“I feel very strongly about it.
“But I couldn’t bring myself to make a decision. I didn’t want to reject it because it would still have been passed anyway by a majority vote and I would still have been part of the committee which passed it.
“So I said I couldn’t vote. They told me I had to so I said I couldn’t, and I walked out.
“If I went back and sat in that meeting again I would do exactly the same thing.”
A Hartlepool Borough Council spokesman said: “We are aware that there is a difference of opinion in respect of whether Councillor Dawkins voted at the meeting.
“However, assurance has been given that the sub-committee was properly constituted for the purposes of the consideration of this application and that a decision to approve that application was validly taken.”
The coffee house within the cemetery currently has a licence to sell alcohol until 6.30pm seven days a week but will now be allowed to serve booze until 9pm.
Council officials previously said the licence would be used for events such as gardening talks and wine-tasting events, particularly during the busy summer months.