Mayor was sacked for attending civic event after telling bosses he was going to a funeral

CAUGHT OUT: ''The Mayor of Hartlepool, Coun Stephen Akers-Belcher, on the visit to HMS Warrior in Portsmouth. He told his bosses at Newcastle City Council that he was at a funeral.

CAUGHT OUT: ''The Mayor of Hartlepool, Coun Stephen Akers-Belcher, on the visit to HMS Warrior in Portsmouth. He told his bosses at Newcastle City Council that he was at a funeral.

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HARTLEPOOL Mayor Stephen Akers-Belcher was sacked from his day job after he was given paid leave to attend a funeral – but instead went to a function in his civic role, it has been revealed.

Coun Akers-Belcher was pictured in his chains representing the council at an event in Portsmouth while his bosses at a neighbouring authority thought he was grieving.

Stephen Akers-Belcher was dismissed after he took time off work to attend a funeral when in fact he was attending an official function in his capacity as Mayor of Hartlepool.

Newcastle City Council spokesman

He was hauled before a disciplinary board and was sacked for gross misconduct from his care manager role with Newcastle City Council.

He lost a legal bid against the authority after failing to attend the hearing on March 9 - claiming to the Mail he was “unwell”.

But we can also reveal, on that day he attended a meeting at the council to interview candidates for the role of new chief executive.

But despite the revelation in an official statement Coun Akers-Belcher maintains he has “done nothing wrong”.

He still claims he was sacked for whistle blowing after he made a series of allegations involving the authority’s protection of vulnerable adults.

But the authority denied that was the case and said the allegations were investigated by the council and police but no further action was taken.

A spokesman for Newcastle City Council said: “Stephen Akers-Belcher’s allegations were treated with the utmost seriousness.

“We contacted the police and called in an independent expert to investigate his claims.

“The police investigated and took no action, and following a comprehensive investigation, the council is satisfied that the level of service it provides is very good.

“Stephen Akers-Belcher was dismissed after he took time off work to attend a funeral when in fact he was attending an official function in his capacity as Mayor of Hartlepool.

“When we asked him to provide evidence to show that he was at a funeral he failed to do so and subsequently failed to provide any evidence to the employment tribunal.

“He was not dismissed because of whistle blowing, and his first allegations were made after the council started its investigation into his conduct.

“Sufficient information to investigate the allegations was only provided by him three months later – after he was dismissed for gross misconduct.

“It is not the case that he was dismissed for whistle blowing.”

The date in question is understood to be Thursday, January 16 last year, when Coun Akers-Belcher was photographed on board HMS Warrior, which was previously restored in Hartlepool, 323 miles away in Portsmouth.

The visit was subsequently reported by the Hartlepool Mail and sister Johnston Press publication Portsmouth News when Coun Akers-Belcher said he was there to learn about how to promote regeneration and tourism in Hartlepool from Portsmouth councillors.

Newcastle City Council issued the statement on the reasons for his dismissal after an employment tribunal brought by Coun Akers-Belcher for unfair dismissal was prevented from going ahead.

As reported in yesterday’s Mail the case, scheduled for next week, was struck out by an employment judge on March 9, because he did not comply with a previous order of the court by a given date.

Coun Akers-Belcher previously told the Mail he was not well enough to attend the tribunal hearing and had sought a deferment.

He said he had not done anything wrong and would not be resigning as a councillor for the Manor House ward.

Hartlepool Borough Council has since confirmed that Coun Akers-Belcher was in attendance at a meeting of its Appointments Panel on March 9.

Coun Akers-Belcher declined to comment on his attendance at the meeting and the Portsmouth visit other than to repeat that he had “done nothing wrong” and added it was a “private matter”.

Hartlepool Borough Council also declined to comment saying the issue is a private matter for Coun Akers-Belcher.