Row over time and place of State of the Borough Debate

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A ROW has broken out over the time and venue for Hartlepool Mayor Stuart Drummond’s annual public meeting.

Mayor Drummond is set to look back at Hartlepool Borough Council’s top issues of the last year and set out its priorities for the future at the State of the Borough Debate.

Residents can also quiz the town leader at the event which will be held at Hartlepool Sixth Form College, in Blakelock Road, on Wednesday, January 25, at noon.

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But Conservative group leader Ray Wells has called on the Mayor to change the venue and move the debate to the evening.

He says the noon start prevents people who work from attending and he also said the debate should be held in the town centre at either the Hartlepool College of Further Education or the Civic Centre.

But Mayor Drummond said he is keen to reach a “wider audience” and hopes the choice of venue will help attract more young people get involved in the lively debate.

He added that the reduction of bus services meant not everybody would be able to get to an evening meeting.

Coun Wells, who formally asked the Mayor to change the time and venue, said: “The debate should be held at a more convenient time to allow those that work for a living to be able to attend.

“Not everybody has the flexibility within their jobs to take time off.

“On balance it would be better if the State of the Borough Debate was held on an evening.”

Audience members do not need to submit their question in advance of the debate.

It is part of the council’s constitution that its elected mayor holds the debate.

Mayor Drummond said: “As per the constitution, myself and chair of the council, councillor Carl Richardson, agreed the time, venue and date.

“We are both very keen to take it out into the community and to attract a wider audience.

“We have always had the most productive public meetings when we have had more young people in the audience.

“There are no hidden agendas and they are always very genuine questions.”

He added that he was delighted the college had agreed to host the debate and said they were “very keen” for their students to get involved with the political process.

Mayor Drummond, who said it will also give people the chance to have a look inside the recently revamped college, said: “The college is easily accessible and off a main bus route.”

At the last State of the Borough Debate in November 2010, Mayor Drummond’s presentation featured a look back at the Tall Ships Races, spending cuts and council performance.

He fielded questions from the audience on a range of issues including the former Odeon cinema in York Road, transport and the University Hospital of Hartlepool.