Town set to go to polls in mayoral referendum

Stuart Drummond

Stuart Drummond

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Have your say

HARTLEPOOL will be going to the polls to decide whether to keep a directly elected mayor after councillors confirmed plans.

The mayoral referendum, to be held on Thursday, November 15, will ask voters whether they want to retain the current system or opt for the committee system.

Plans for the referendum were confirmed last night at a meeting of the full council.

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It follows a major public consultation exercise which asked people which alternative system to the directly elected mayor they wanted to see on the ballot paper.

By law, only one alternative can be put forward and more than 800 people responded to the consultation.

It found 75 per cent favoured the committee system, which is committees made up of elected councillors, over the other alternative, a leader who is an elected councillor.

Speaking at last night’s meeting, councillors agreed to back the results of the consultation and go with the committee system as the alternative option.

Labour group leader, Christopher Akers-Belcher, said: “Looking at the consultation, this is probably one of the best responses we have had at the council to a survey.

“I firmly believe that if we, as elected members, are serious about increasing democracy then we should accept the results of the consultation.”

That was seconded by Conservative group leader Ray Wells, and unanimously backed by councillors.

It was also confirmed to hold the referendum on November 15, to coincide with the Police Crime Commissioner election.

On the day, polling stations will be open between 7am and 10pm.

The most consultation responses, 263, came from the Rural West ward.

Speaking afterwards, Coun Wells who represents Rural West, said: “I am delighted that I represent the ward that responded in the greatest numbers.

“I believe a move to the committee system away from an elected mayor and cabinet can only be good for democracy in Hartlepool.”

Putting Hartlepool First group leader, Geoff Lilley, said he wants people to be fully aware of what they are voting on come November.

Coun Lilley, who favours the elected mayor system, added: “What will be on offer is not a move to the old committee system.

“I have heard a number of Labour councillors say they want to see a committee system that is a hybrid of scrutiny.

“It has been suggested that scrutiny should have the power to overturn any decision that a committee makes.

“But under the old committee system it came to floor of full council to be discussed and ratified.”

A total of 893 responses were received in the consultation, 235 on paper and 658 online.

Several checks were put in place to make sure the responses were valid and after that it was found 801 were usable.

Of them, 75 per cent were in favour of the committee system and 25 per cent were in favour of a leader, who is an elected councillor.

Mayor Stuart Drummond, who became the town’s first elected mayor in May 2002, was not at last night’s meeting.

But he has previously welcomed the chance for people to have their say.