There will not be a referendum in Hartlepool over Tees Valley devolution

Hartlepool Civic Centre.
Hartlepool Civic Centre.
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The people of Hartlepool will not have a say in whether or not they will be governed by an elected mayor as part of a government devolution deal.

Councillors last night voted to agree the deal subject to recommendations from the authority’s finance and policy committee.

It will now, jointly with the five other local authorities in Tees Valley, obtain more powers to drive economic growth in the region.

However, an amendment to hold a referendum – or local poll – to garner the electorates opinion, as motioned by independent Coun Jonathan Brash, was voted down by Labour members, denying the people their say.

“I don’t think Hartlepool should reject this deal”, Coun Brash said: “Hartlepool should remain at the table.

“What I do believe, fundamentally, is that this cannot be done without consent.

We are not here to make decisions of such magnitude without the people’s backing

Coun David Riddle

“In principle, I support the elected mayor model and believe the combined authority can be a vehicle that will help our region compete with other large areas. However, there are huge question marks over this particular deal, and, given that the public of Hartlepool rejected the mayoral model just three years ago, I believe imposing another mayor onto them is undemocratic and wrong.”

Council leader Christopher Akers-Belcher said: “This is a case of take it or leave it. What potentially would we stand to lose if we were not at the table? Hartlepool has only 4.8% of all the population of Tees Valley and what many of us are unhappy about is the governance. Everybody knows my own personal view about an elected mayor and why would we want one? The decision making would be with the elected mayor. However, there will be a scrutiny panel set up to hold that mayor to account.

“There is the option of holding a local poll, although this is from an advisory point of view and is not legally binding.”

Putting Hartlepool First Coun David Riddle said he also supported a local poll, adding: “People elected us because they trusted is to do the right thing in their wards, in terms of traffic issues, waste disposal and dog mess. None of us have that degree of authority and I know members who have serious doubts.

“We are not here to make decisions of such magnitude without the people’s backing.”

Conservative Coun Ray Martin-Wells said he could not vote against the deal itself.

“It would be a disservice for the town as we would miss out on these grants that would be available to our neighbours. As long as the final governance can come back to this chamber, I have no problems supporting the proposals.”

“Labour’s Coun Marjorie James said: “No one in this chamber fought the locally elected mayor system harder than I did. I actually despise that type of governance.

“Depending on constitutional change, I may or may not cote for a mayor. The devil is in the detail.

“The constitution is not yet penned. I would like Hartlepool to remain at the table and the only way to do that is to agree in principle. I don’t believe that we are being asked to do more than that tonight.”

The devolution deal, which is expected to bring £450million of additional money into the Tees Valley over the next 30 years, also depends on final agreement of councils in Darlington, Middlesbrough, Redcar and Cleveland, and Stockton.

It aims to drive economic growth, accelerating 25,000 new jobs and creating another 14,000 more,

Chancellor George Osborne has said the scale of the deal means an elected mayor will have to be in place.

The Government has said significant cuts in council funding will take place, irrespective of any deal, but it is said any agreement will offer the area a new resource and rejecting it could mean it could lose out on job creation, infrastructure and influence over transport, housing and skills. Borough Council voted to agree the deal which will see the five local authorities obtain more powers with regard to areas including jobs and transport.

The deal will be agreed subject to recommendations from the council’s finance and policy committee.

There will, however, not be a referendum or local poll to give the electorate the chance to decide on the issue.

Coun Jonathan Brash motioned for an amendment to hold a poll which was defeated.

“I don’t think Hartlepool should reject this deal”, he said: “Hartlepool should remain at the table.

“What I do believe fundamentally is that this cannot be done without consent.”

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