Public inquiry into interests of Hartlepool councillors is extended

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A PUBLIC inquiry into the interests of Hartlepool councillors and their links to the voluntary and community sector will last at least another month.

Middlesbrough-based barrister Tom Mitchell is leading the inquiry after a Local Government Association Peer Review raised major concerns about the perception that some councillors act out of self-interest and the perceived lack of rigour around the declaration of interests of councillors.

It started at the end of April and was originally hoped to last around three months.

But in an open letter to town residents, Mr Mitchell said it will take at least another four weeks.

Mr Mitchell said: “In the initial phase of the inquiry I heard from the people of Hartlepool, representatives of the community and voluntary sector and elected members of Hartlepool Borough Council.

“Aside from being provided with documents by those who came to see me, I was also given free access to any document held by the council.

“In the light of what I heard and read, I invited some further witnesses to attend and in due course they did so, towards the end of the third week of June.

“I invited two of those people to set out their submissions in writing.

“For personal reasons of which I was made immediately aware and which I wholly understand and accept, one of those witnesses has only very recently completed that task.

“Having again reviewed and analysed the matter and in order to complete my report, it had been my intention to clarify some issues with an individual.

“Unfortunately that person is seriously ill and is presently unable to see me.”

Mr Mitchell said he has decided to allow an extra three to four weeks in order to take further stock of the situation and review it again then.