Council all set to get new chairman

OLD AND NEW: Coun Stephen Akers-Belcher (left) and Coun Carl Richardson
OLD AND NEW: Coun Stephen Akers-Belcher (left) and Coun Carl Richardson

HARTLEPOOL Borough Council is set to have a new chairman for the first time in a decade.

Labour councillor Stephen Akers-Belcher is expected to take over the reigns from party colleague, Councillor Carl Richardson, who has held the position for the past 10 years.

He has been nominated by his party colleagues in the Labour group, which has 21 out of the 34 seats in the council chamber, made up of 33 councillors plus Mayor Stuart Drummond.

The Conservative group has confirmed it will not be putting forward a nomination, but it is not yet known whether any independent councillors or the Putting Hartlepool First group will be putting forward a nomination.

Councillors will vote for the new chairman at next week’s annual general meeting, to be held on Thursday, May 24, at the Civic Centre.

Coun Akers-Belcher, who represents the Manor House Ward, has spoken of his pride at being nominated.

Coun Akers-Belcher, who has been vice-chairman for the past year, told the Mail: “I am very proud to have been nominated for the position of chair of council.

“It is a huge responsibility and I would embrace the role.”

The Labour councillor also paid tribute to the outgoing chairman, Coun Richardson.

Coun Akers-Belcher said: “Coun Richardson has done an outstanding job as chairman of the council.

“It is an honour to wear the chains for one year, but he has been in the position for 10, which is a great achievement.

“He has been a great ambassador for the town.”

He won 906 votes in the recent Local Election and will represent the Manor House Ward for the next four years.

The council chairman oversees full council meetings and represents the town at a number of civic meetings and appointments throughout the year.

It comes just a week after his partner and fellow councillor, Christopher Akers-Belcher, was appointed leader of the Labour Group in Hartlepool.

Coun Richardson, who had held the position since 2002, had originally planned to step down after his eighth year in the role.

But he stayed on and was re-elected to help oversee the massive budgets facing the local authority, which needs to slash £15m over the next three years.

The annual general meeting will be held at 7pm and invited dignitaries from neighbouring local authorities will be present.

Members of the public are welcome to attend.