Meeting to be held over Hartlepool mayor revelations - he claims it’s a personal attack

SACKED: Stephen Akers-Belcher the Mayor of Hartlepool.
SACKED: Stephen Akers-Belcher the Mayor of Hartlepool.

AN extraordinary meeting will be held in response to revelations surrounding Hartlepool Mayor Stephen Akers-Belcher’s sacking from his day job.

But it will not be held until after the local elections on May 7.

At the end of the day this is public taxpayers’ money being wasted on what I would describe as a very personal attack on me.

Coun Stephen Akers-Belcher, Mayor of Hartlepool

Five councillors called for a meeting of Hartlepool Borough Council to be heard after the Mail revealed Coun Akers-Belcher was dismissed for gross misconduct by Newcastle City Council after he was given paid leave to attend a funeral but say he actually attended a function in his civic role.

Coun Akers-Belcher, who is also chairman of the council, declined to call a meeting himself and it will be called by outgoing council chief executive Dave Stubbs.

Opposition councillors had called for it to happen within days of it being requested.

Coun Akers-Belcher says he deferred making a decision to Mr Stubbs and that he is not trying to prevent it going ahead.

But he described the meeting as a personal attack against him.

Coun Akers-Belcher, who represents Manor House, said: “I’m not trying to prevent the meeting going ahead. What I would say is this is the third meeting of the same kind called by the same people.

“At the end of the day this is public taxpayers’ money being wasted on what I would describe as a very personal attack on me.

“When the meeting will be called I will only have another week or so to go before the end of my time in office.”

Coun Akers-Belcher denied he wanted to remain as mayor for another term.

There has been talk on the internet that Hartlepool Labour Group had asked council officers to sound out councillors about changing the authority’s constitution to split the role of ceremonial mayor and chairman, potentially leaving the door open for Coun Akers-Belcher to continue as mayor.

But he said: “I haven’t been privvy to any discussion about that.

“I made it clear at the outset of my term in office, I made a public announcement this would be my final year in office and I still stand by that.

“In three years I wanted to raise £100,000 for my chosen charities and had already raised £83,000 in two years. That’s the reason why I wanted to do my final year.”

The meeting has been requested by councillors Paul Thompson, Jonathan Brash, David Riddle, Geoff Lilley and Steve Gibbon.

Coun Riddle previously denied it was down to personalities.

He said: “It was because we could see this coming and we knew the embarrassment it would cause to the council and the town as a whole.

“The reputation of our councillors is in the gutter and he is the primary reason.”

Coun Brash added: “The council has a duty to take action, even if the only thing we are legally able to do is record a vote of no confidence in him.”

Coun Akers-Belcher maintains he was sacked for whistle blowing after raising serious concerns within Newcastle City Council about the protection of vulnerable adults.

That has been strenuously denied by the authority.

Questions have also been raised after Coun Akers-Belcher told the Mail he did not attend an employment tribunal hearing on March 9 this year when his claim for unfair dismissal was struck out because he was not well enough to attend.

But it later emerged that he took part in a Hartlepool Borough Council meeting on that day, when candidates for the post of new chief executive were interviewed.

Hartlepool Labour Group says it is to investigate the matter.

A Borough council spokesman said: “We can confirm that consideration has been given to a request for an extraordinary meeting of the council.

“The council’s chief executive, in his role as proper officer and following legal advice, is of the view that it would be inappropriate to hold a meeting at this time due to the restrictions placed on councils in the pre-election period, leading up to polling on May 7.

“Hartlepool council’s chief executive will call a meeting, but the earliest date that this can take place is Monday, May 18, and he will be issuing the appropriate notice on Friday, May 8.”