Cash goes to hospice

Independent councilor for the St Hilda ward, John Marshall, who is standing down.
Independent councilor for the St Hilda ward, John Marshall, who is standing down.

A HOSPICE is in line for a cash boost after a councillor agreed to donate his allowance for the month he was suspended.

Independent councillor John Marshall was suspended for four weeks over claims of “bullying” environment officers in Hartlepool Borough Council’s environment protection team in a row over complaints about dust.

The 60-year-old, who serves the St Hilda ward, strenuously denied those claims, but did not appeal against the suspension.

Now the full council committee has allowed Coun Marshall to decide what to do with the allowance.

He has agreed to donate the money, which is around £300, to Hartlepool and District Hospice, in Wells Avenue.

Coun Marshall, who is stepping down in May, said: “I said I would donate the money and that is what I am going to do.

“The hospice is an excellent organisation.”

Speaking at full council, Labour councillor Robbie Payne, said: “If anybody thinks that in the month he was suspended, he was not helping the residents of the Headland, then they don’t know him as well as I do.

“Can we say that it will be left up to John to decide whether he wants to keep the allowance or donate the money.”

Members agreed with the suggestion.

Janice Forbes, hospice community fundraiser, said: “The hospice are delighted that John has chosen our charity to receive this donation.

“All donations received go towards the specialist care services we provide to people in our local community.”

Coun Marshall plans to move south and open a pub or cafe as a family business when he retires, as previously reported.

He has been in the role for 15 years and supported Headland residents who claim their lives have been blighted for 20 years by dust from businesses on Victoria Dock.

Years of campaigning and public meetings were dismissed last year when a report by a public health professor found there was no health risk.

The issue took a new twist in December when the council’s standards committee upheld two complaints made about Coun Marshall’s conduct during the investigation and he was suspended for a month.

It was also announced at full council that since the last meeting, independent councillors Steve Gibbon and Alison and Geoff Lilley had formed a new political group called Hartlepool Independents – Putting Hartlepool First.

The necessary formal notice has been completed for the group, which aims to give independents more of a say within the council chamber.

But it sparked humour in the chamber with Conservative group leader Ray Wells joking they couldn’t remember the new name, while Labour councillor Stephen Akers-Belcher criticised the new allegiance.

Coun Akers-Belcher said: “I don’t know what to make of all these independents. They have had more parties than Peter Stringfellow.”

In response, Coun Geoff Lilley, a former Labour councillor, said: “Hartlepool Independents has an open door policy and there may be members opposite who have more common ground with us than their comrades.”

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