D-day for Hartlepool mayor – date decided for hearing over his future

UNDER PRESSURE: The Mayor of Hartlepool Stephen Akers-Belcher.
UNDER PRESSURE: The Mayor of Hartlepool Stephen Akers-Belcher.

HARTLEPOOL’S under-pressure mayor Stephen Akers-Belcher has agreed for a meeting to be held which could determine his future.

A group of five councillors called for an extraordinary meeting to be held when it emerged that Coun Akers-Belcher had been sacked from his ‘day job’ at Newcastle City Council.

The request for the meeting was made a day after the ceremonial mayor jetted off for a sunshine break to Mexico with his civil partner, Hartlepool Borough Council leader Christopher Akers-Belcher.

Because the mayor was out of the country, council executives initially said he was the only person in a position to decide whether or not the meeting would take place it would have to wait until he returned.

But the five councillors - independent Labour representative Jonathan Brash, independent Paul Thompson and Putting Hartlepool First’s Geoff Lilley, David Riddle and Keith Dawkins - then put pressure on the council’s chief executive Dave Stubbs and chief solicitor Peter Devlin to use their own powers to call the meeting.

In response, Mr Stubbs sent an email to Coun Akers-Belcher to inform him of the situation and he received a reply over the weekend.

It has now been confirmed that the meeting will take place on October 13, when Coun Akers-Belcher will be present.

Mr Stubbs said: “Following the request for an Extraordinary Council meeting, the Chairman of the Council has responded and agreed for it to go ahead.

“The meeting will take place on Monday, October 13 at 7pm in the Civic Centre.”

Coun Akers-Belcher was sacked from his care manager role with Newcastle City Council and is appealing his dismissal.

At the extraordinary meeting, the five councillors will put forward a motion requesting:

• The Mayor is temporarily suspended from all Civic duties, until such time as his legal dispute with Newcastle City Council is resolved;

• In the interim the Deputy should assume all civic responsibilities of the Mayoral office and all allowances to the Mayor frozen;

• Should his dismissal for “gross misconduct” be overturned the Mayor should be reinstated immediately with council’s full support;

• If the dismissal is upheld then Council resolves to record a vote of no confidence in the Mayor.

There was fresh controversy surrounding him yesterday when the Mail revealed how police were investigating complaints about his behaviour and that of Labour councillor Carl Richardson and Conservative councillor Ray Martin-Wells which were made by Radio Hartlepool.

The complaints follow discussions between the station and the council into ways of “working together for the benefit of the town”.