Mayor’s Labour cabinet cull

Top, left to right, Jonathan Brash, Pam Hargreaves, Ged Hall. Bottom, left to right, Robbie Payne, Peter Jackson and Chris Simmons
Top, left to right, Jonathan Brash, Pam Hargreaves, Ged Hall. Bottom, left to right, Robbie Payne, Peter Jackson and Chris Simmons

SIX Labour cabinet members have been sensationally axed by Mayor Stuart Drummond for failing to support their own budget proposals.

Labour councillors Jonathan Brash, Pamela Hargreaves, Ged Hall, Chris Simmons, Robbie Payne and Peter Jackson have been culled after failing to back their own proposals for Hartlepool Borough Council’s 2012-13 budget.

Stuart Drummond

Stuart Drummond

The decision was taken after the six failed to attend last Thursday’s full council meeting that saw amended budget plans – put forward by the Labour Group – approved after a tense 90-minute debate.

The Mayor said their positions had become “untenable” and were relieved of their duties with immediate effect yesterday morning.

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They will no longer receive their annual special responsibility allowance of £5,767 for being a cabinet member.

All six, who have expressed their “disappointment” at the decision, will remain as councillors and receive a basic allowance of £5,767. Coun Payne has also lost his position as Deputy Mayor.

It means the three-strong cabinet is now made up of Mayor Drummond and independent councillors Hilary Thompson and Cath Hill.

Mayor Drummond said: “They made a choice not to turn up to full council and support their budget.

“That put me in an extremely difficult position.

“The biggest role for cabinet members is putting together a budget and everybody has done that for the past nine months.

“But for them to not follow that through and support it, I’m afraid that is not what they are on the cabinet for.

“I would stress that this is nothing against them personally as people and I wish them all good luck.

“This was a really difficult position and I have fretted over it all weekend.

“It is a huge loss but I feel that their positions were untenable at this moment in time.”

Councillors met last Thursday night to thrash out budget plans after Mayor Drummond objected to Labour group amendments agreed at a previous full council meeting.

The amendments centred around plans to privatise the council’s ICT, revenues and benefits contract, which the Mayor and cabinet were in favour of. But the six Labour councillors did not turn up.

The amended budget, which included plans not to privatise the contract, was agreed by 30 votes to eight, easily securing the two-thirds majority needed.

Mayor Drummond, Coun Thompson and Coun Hill, along with five other independent councillors, objected.

The Labour cabinet members did attend the previous full council meeting but they abstained from voting on the amendments.

Mayor Drummond said he won’t replace the axed cabinet members until after May’s all-out local election.

He wished the Labour members well and described them as “excellent councillors”, some of who have been on the cabinet since Mayor Drummond was first elected in 2002.

He added: “I think they have done an excellent job.

“But on this occasion, this very important one, I needed support.

“I had to make this decision.”

Constitutionally the Mayor can have between two and nine councillors in his cabinet and he does not need to have a certain number from each political group.

Coun Thompson, current member for performance, will now also be responsible for adult and public health services.

Meanwhile, Coun Hill, portfolio holder for culture, leisure and tourism, will also now be responsible for children’s services.

Mayor Drummond will take responsibility for the remaining portfolios including housing and transition, regeneration, economic development and skills and transport and neighbourhoods.

An adult and public health services portfolio went yesterday afternoon with Coun Thompson in the chair.

But a children services portfolio had to be rescheduled as neither the Mayor or Coun Hill could chair the meeting at short notice.