Call made for public debate

REJECTED: Plans to build 22 houses on land in Hart village, on the outskirts of Hartlepool, have been rejected by councillors.
REJECTED: Plans to build 22 houses on land in Hart village, on the outskirts of Hartlepool, have been rejected by councillors.
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A LABOUR councillor at the centre of a row over questions at full council meetings has called on his group leader to take part in a public debate on the issue.

Hartlepool councillors Jonathan Brash and Pamela Hargreaves have been at loggerheads with Christopher Akers-Belcher, after they voted against proposals supported by the Labour group to scrap supplementary questions at meetings.

Councilors Jonathon Brash

Councilors Jonathon Brash

It led to them being suspended for seven days and claims they were victims of a “witch-hunt”.

Coun Akers-Belcher hit back and accused the pair of acting like “petulant children” but now Coun Brash has challenged the group leader to a public debate.

Coun Brash said: “If Christopher Akers-Belcher is so sure of his opinion then I would welcome debating the issue publicly.

“I don’t want to get into who said what, when, but to have a public debate about this issue where people can ask us questions, including supplementary questions.”

Coun Akers-Belcher said: “The arena for debate by Labour members is in the Labour group as Jonathan is more than aware.

“He may wish to contact Rob Cook as chairman of our group should he wish to request an agenda item for such at the next Labour group.

“In any event I have been inundated with support for our new constitution, which increases public participation and engagement.”

Coun Brash also accused the Labour Group of being “out-of-touch” on the issue of public questions and said there was a resolution, dated March 19, put forward by the Victoria Branch, which is made up of Labour Party members in Hartlepool’s Victoria ward, calling on the decision to be reconsidered.

But Coun Akers-Belcher said resolutions can only be considered by the General Council of the Constituency Labour Party and confirmed there is a counter resolution, from the Burn Valley branch, which doesn’t support the resolution of the Victoria branch.

It is national Labour Group policy for a member to be suspended pending an investigation if they go against a group decision.

But Coun Brash and Hargreaves claimed more “draconian” measures had been attempted including “expelling” Coun Brash and suspending Coun Hargreaves for “two cycles of council”.

Labour chief whip Stephen Akers-Belcher has offered to take a fresh look at the allegations.