Complaints over councillor’s conduct at mayor meeting

KEVIN CRANNEY: the councillor denies any wrongdoing.
KEVIN CRANNEY: the councillor denies any wrongdoing.

COMPLAINTS have been made about the conduct of a councillor at a meeting to decide the mayor’s future.

The alleged incident involving rivals councillors Kevin Cranney and David Riddle took place at Monday night’s extraordinary meeting which was arranged to discuss the future of ceremonial mayor, Councillor Stephen Akers-Belcher.

During the meeting at the Civic Centre, which was watched by a packed public gallery, various outbursts were made by councillors during a heated debate.

Several times during the meeting, chief solicitor Peter Devlin and chief executive Dave Stubbs had to call for order, with Mr Stubbs telling the Mail immediately afterwards that he was “disappointed” with the behaviour of certain members.

The meeting ended with a motion put forward requesting Coun Akers-Belcher to stand down until a dispute with Newcastle City Council over his recent dismissal is resolved being rejected to a vote of 19-11.

At the end of the meeting, it is alleged Labour’s Coun Cranney had tried to approach Putting Hartlepool First’s Coun Riddle following a verbal exchange.

Council bosses have confirmed they have received the complaint and are discussing whether any further action needs to be taken.

Coun Cranney has denied any wrongdoing, and says he has called on Mr Devlin to arrange a meeting with Coun Riddle to discuss the issue.

Coun Cranney said: “During the meeting, Coun Riddle inferred that I was of dubious character.

“I tried to correct him and said that he didn’t even know me. I then said I would see him later.

“After the meeting, I went to approach him to ask how he was in the position to cast aspersions about me.

“Two senior council officers intervened and told me to leave it until the following morning as feelings were running high.

“I left the Civic Centre, went home and sent an email to Mr Devlin asking for a meeting to discuss the issue.

“At no stage did I threaten him. I am aware that people are trying to cause trouble, with petty politics and personal attacks.

“I was annoyed at what Coun Riddle had said about me, I can’t dispute that, but to be honest with you I have more important things to worry about.”

Coun Riddle, who plans a meeting with Mr Stubbs to discuss the matter this week, said there were “audible gasps” following words from Coun Cranney.

He added: “I understand that political debate can become heated, but I’m of the opinion that too many people are hiding behind the veneer of respectability that the title of councillor comes with and Coun Cranney’s mask certainly slipped on Monday.”

Councillors Geoff Lilley, Paul Thompson and Jonathan Brash all lodged formal complaints with the council’s executive team on Tuesday morning.

A Hartlepool Borough Council spokesman said: “We can confirm that an official complaint has been received by the Council’s Monitoring Officer and is being considered.”