Hartlepool councillors fail to attend a Cleveland Police and Crime Panel meetings for over a year to scrutinise policing decisions

Hartlepool councillors fail to attend Cleveland Police and Crime Panel meetings for over a year. Picture by PA Archives/PA Images
Hartlepool councillors fail to attend Cleveland Police and Crime Panel meetings for over a year. Picture by PA Archives/PA Images

Hartlepool has been hit hard by police cutbacks in recent years - although it has has no representation on the local crime panel since February last year.

Hartlepool saw the closure of its custody suite on January 1 – with those arrested now taken to Middlesbrough.

Councillor Lesley Hamilton. Picture by FRANK REID

Councillor Lesley Hamilton. Picture by FRANK REID

And a BBC investigation last year revealed there were no police officers in Hartlepool to respond to emergencies at one point on a Saturday night.

Yet the minutes of Cleveland Police and Crime Panel – the body which scrutinises the actions of the force and Police and Crime Commissioner Barry Coppinger – show no Hartlepool councillors have attended since Coun Dave Hunter and Coun Jim Lindridge attended in February 2018.

The panel has met five times since a Hartlepool member last appeared – in which time, former Chief Constable Mike Veale has departed and has been replaced by new chief Richard Lewis.

There were no Hartlepool councillors at Stockton Town Hall on Tuesday night to question Mr Lewis – nor were there any in attendance to offer their input for the call to give the Welshman the job.

Cleveland Police has seen its budget cut by almost £40m since 2010 with the loss of more than 500 police officers and PCSOs in the past nine years.

Hartlepool’s custody suite was mothballed at the start of this year with those arrested brought to Middlesbrough to cut down on costs.

Labour councillors Katie Trueman and Lesley Hamilton are listed at the borough’s representatives on the panel to keep tabs on the force.

Coun Hamilton, member for the Victoria ward, has submitted apologies for meetings since July 2018.

Coun Trueman last attended in January 2018.

But she told the Local Democracy Reporting Service she’d not been in good health in recent months.

And she added a clash of meetings on Tuesday evenings had also hampered how many councillors were able to attend.

Coun Trueman said: “I’ve tried to get councillors to substitute before, but some have busy schedules.

“We usually have a children’s services meeting at 4pm on Tuesdays – to get to another meeting in another town is very difficult.”

Coun Trueman added she was not seeking a seat in local elections on May 2.

Crime panel meetings are held at 5pm.

Coun Hamilton said the crime panel meeting clashed with her job in Durham meaning she was unable to get there in time.

She added: “In addition to this, I regularly attend a number of resident groups and meetings which I’m required to attend as a councillor for my ward which also clash with these meetings.

“I do receive the minutes from this meeting and see Barry quite regularly in Hartlepool.

“He is also an attendee of the various resident groups of which I am currently involved – I will generally contact Mr Coppinger with issues and concerns which are raised in the minutes or by constituents in the ward.

“We also have regular contact with our local PCSOs and other police colleagues who keep us up to date on the PCC.”

Coun Norma Stephenson, chairwoman of the crime panel, did not wish to comment on the attendance record.

Hartlepool Borough Council leader Christopher Akers-Belcher has been contacted for comment.

Alex Metcalfe , Local Democracy Reporting Service