Councillor turns up heat on under-fire Hartlepool mayor

UNDER PRESSURE: Hartlepool Mayor Stephen Akers-Belcher
UNDER PRESSURE: Hartlepool Mayor Stephen Akers-Belcher

A SENIOR councillor has turned up the heat on an under-fire mayor by claiming his decision to take action against a neighbouring local authority could have a damaging effect on Hartlepool.

As reported in the Mail last Thursday, Hartlepool’s Ceremonial Mayor Stephen Akers-Belcher was sacked from his job as a senior care manager with Newcastle City Council in July for what has been described as “gross misconduct”.

LETTER: Councillor Jonathan Brash calls for mayor to stand aside

LETTER: Councillor Jonathan Brash calls for mayor to stand aside

Coun Akers-Belcher claimed he was axed after raising concerns about various issues within the council, and has vowed to clear his name through an appeal process.

Hartlepool Borough Council moved quickly to say the situation would not impact on Coun Akers-Belcher’s role as either a councillor or his mayoral duties.

But in an online poll, 90 per cent of Mail readers suggested the mayor stood down immediately.

And now Coun Jonathan Brash, independent Labour representative for the Burn Valley ward, has waded into the furore with some no-nonsence suggestions in a personal letter to the mayor.

Coun Brash - who copied in all of the other councillors in Hartlepool on the letter - suggests he his relinquishes his roles until the matter is brought to a close.

Coun Brash wrote: “This must be a difficult time for you and your family with the loss of your job at Newcastle City Council and can I say from the outset that I have no desire, at this stage, to ascertain the details that lie behind the judgement of ‘gross misconduct’ against you.

“However, as you have frequently stated, your role as the ‘Worshipful Mayor’, makes you the first citizen of Hartlepool and perhaps the most prominent civic face of our council.”

Coun Brash then questions whether Coun Akers-Belcher intends to go down a legal route in his appeal, adding: “Can you confirm that this ‘appeal’ is in fact an Employment Tribunal, which is a legal process to be heard in front of a judge?

“If this is the case then you are, in effect, suing one of Hartlepool Borough Council’s partner North-East authorities.

“Do you think it appropriate for the Mayor of Hartlepool, who is married to the Leader of Hartlepool Council, to be engaged in an ongoing legal dispute with one of our key strategic regional partners?

“Does this not do immense damage to the council and fatally undermine its leadership?”

Coun Brash put further pressure on Coun Akers-Belcher by demanding that he gives the full reasoning behind his dismissal should his appeal fail.

The letter added: “Should your action against Newcastle Council fail, will you then make public the now legally proven reasons why you were dismissed? Given that you are in a position of trust, which requires both character and judgement, you must surely recognise that such information would be in the public interest.

“Should your legal action against Newcastle Council fail to overturn your termination for gross misconduct, will you resign as both Mayor and as a Councillor?”