No council action over petition

Christine Blakey outside the Civic Centre with her petition. Picture bY FRANK REID
Christine Blakey outside the Civic Centre with her petition. Picture bY FRANK REID

COUNCILLORS voted to take no action over a petition calling for changes at Hartlepool Borough Council – much to the dismay of the organiser.

Almost 2,000 residents put their names to Resident Representative Christine Blakey’s campaign over a number of issues which she believed needed to be addressed.

The petition, signed by 1,760 people, raised concerns about the £10,795 pay rise awarded to council chief executive Paul Walker, the Tall Ships budget deficit, landfill sites and planning decisions, and also called for more accountability.

Ms Blakey outlined her concerns to full council on Thursday night to cheers from the public gallery.

In response, deputy Mayor Robbie Payne – who was standing in for Mayor Stuart Drummond – thanked her for the petition but said: “On this occasion I move that we take no action.”

The majority of councillors agreed, which led to jeers in the council chamber.

Independent councillor John Marshall, of St Hilda ward, was so “disgusted” that he left his seat and sat in the public gallery.

The other councillors to vote against taking no action were independent councillors Martyn Aiken, Tim Fleming, Steve Gibbon, Alison Lilley, Geoff Lilley and Liberal Democrat councillors Arthur Preece and Edna Wright.

Ms Blakey, 43, of the town’s Bishop Cuthbert estate, hoped the petition from the recently-formed Hear ‘n’ Hartlepool group would lead to a full independent investigation.

Speaking afterwards she said: “I was warned that it would happen, and I just feel sorry for those people that opened their hearts to us.

“In some ways I am pleased that it happened, because that is the true picture of democracy.

“The contempt that was shown to the people that signed was despicable. It just shows that I was right to start the petition.”

But senior councillors have defended their decision, saying the petition lacked any evidence.

Speaking afterwards, Councillor Ray Wells, Conservative group leader, said: “The Conservative group would willingly support any request for an inquiry into a specific allegation of wrongdoing,

“However, having read and re-read the petition, we can’t find a single fact pointing to any specific allegation.

“We therefore reluctantly cannot support this petition which could have cost this authority tens of thousands of pounds.”

Councillor Chris Simmons, Labour group leader, added: “Officers and members are doing their very best to improve Hartlepool.

“We are an open council and give many opportunities to members of the public to express their opinions.”

Councillors could have agreed to the requests in the petition, held an inquiry or a public meeting, commission research, take no action or refer it to a scrutiny committee.

Chair of the council, Labour councillor Carl Richardson, said: “The majority of people voted that no action be taken.

“That is the decision of the elected members.”

Ms Blakey added that anyone who signed the petition and wanted to express their concerns can email her at chris.blakey@sky.com