Resident has say at public inquiry

Tom Mitchell.

Tom Mitchell.

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A HARTLEPOOL resident has raised concerns about the interests of councillors and their links to the voluntary and community sector at a public inquiry.

Fred Corbett, 63, of the Rift House area of town, was speaking during one of the public sessions of the £20,000 inquiry being held at the Civic Centre, in Victoria Road.

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

Mr Corbett said a lot of the voluntary and community groups in Hartlepool do “great work” but said he was concerned about councillors being employed or working for them.

He said: “My biggest concern is councillors being managers of organisations that are granted funds by Hartlepool Borough Council or being involved at all.

“In my opinion, they should not be employed because they receive funding from the council and they should not be involved as a trustee or directors.

“Councillors should not be making a living out of it.”

Mr Corbett said it was difficult for a “lay person” to trawl through accounts of community and voluntary sector organisations to see what the council grants had been spent on.

Speaking during the inquiry he also called for greater “openness, transparency and accountability”.

Mr Mitchell, who said it was not for him to comment on the evidence or views presented to him at this stage of the inquiry, said: “I hope that your experience of this process has been for the better.”

Mr Corbett also called for a breakdown of how grants have been spent by community organisations.

He added: “I have not come down here out of self-interest.

“I have come down because I think things could be better in Hartlepool.”

The inquiry started last week and the first step involved the public having the opportunity to have their say during half-hour sessions at the Civic Centre.

Between Wednesday, May 1 and Friday, May 3 representatives from the voluntary and community sector will have the chance to meet Mr Mitchell before councillors have the opportunity from Wednesday, May 15 to Friday, May 17.

Councillors have previously stressed the inquiry, which will look back over the past five years, is a good opportunity to set the record straight and quash any perceptions.

People can also email Mr Mitchell with any views to publicinquiry@hartlepool.gov.uk

For more information about the public inquiry call (01429) 523647.