Call to use Hart ward budget after new councillor reveals £10k of ‘people’s money’ unspent

CONTESTED: David Riddle
CONTESTED: David Riddle

CALLS have been made to council chiefs to divide £10,500 of unused funding to the benefit of residents.

Each councillor in Hartlepool is given a ward budget of around £5,000 to spend on worthy causes, community groups or other initiatives in their area.

But former independent councillor Keith Fisher, who represented the Hart Ward until he lost out at the Local Elections, hadn’t spent any of his ward allocation in the last two financial years.

Now Putting Hartlepool First councillor David Riddle, who ousted Mr Fisher at the election, is calling for the £10,500 to be equally divided between himself and other Hart ward colleagues, Paul Beck and Jean Robinson, of Labour, so residents can benefit from the money.

Mr Fisher told the Mail the money was not his but ‘belonged to the people of Hart’ and he stressed that he had earmarked it for a potential judicial review if the decision was ever taken to place a potential gypsy and traveller site in the ward again.

Coun Riddle said: “I propose the £10,500 which remains unspent from Mr Fisher’s tenure as councillor be allocated to the three current Hart ward councillors.

“This will ensure fairness, balance and equality to the residents of the Hart ward and parity with the residents of other wards in the town.

“Indeed, I would go a stage further and suggest that given the stress which was placed on my residents regarding the initial allocation of gypsy and traveller site provision, ensuring that residents of the Hart ward fully receive their ward budgets, is the very least this council can do for them.”

Mr Fisher added: “I received many requests for donations from many worthwhile causes but I never recognised one as being appropriate to all of the Hart Ward.

“I recognised that the universal threat to the whole ward was the proposal regarding travellers sites and considered it appropriate to reserve or save the whole of the allowance to contribute to a judicial review, if it was required.

“When the Local Plan was scrapped, the whole threat was placed on the back burner and I was then determined to keep the allowance ready and available if the threat re-appeared.”

Coun Riddle had initially proposed a motion with the aim of it being discussed by full council but it is now set to go to the finance and policy committee at the end of June instead.

Council leader Christopher Akers-Belcher said he supported the principle that Hart residents should not be disadvantaged from the benefits of the ward member budgets not used by a former councillor.