‘Electioneering’ complaint after council leader sent out letter about Hartlepool gypsy site fiasco

Coun Geoff Lilley
Coun Geoff Lilley

A COUNCILLOR has lodged a complaint with authority chiefs over a letter a senior councillor sent to residents about gypsy sites.

Putting Hartlepool First Councillor Geoff Lilley has accused Hartlepool Borough Council leader Councillor Christopher Akers-Belcher of “blatant electioneering”.



Coun Akers-Belcher wrote to people in Hart where a planned gypsy and traveller site was scrapped last year when Hartlepool Borough Council withdrew its proposed 15-year Local Plan.

He wrote how a new study into the demand for gypsy and traveller sites in Hartlepool is being carried out.

But Coun Lilley says the letter is misleading and claims any new Local Plan will need to take into account the needs of travellers.

Coun Lilley said: “The people of Hart are not daft and I’m sure they will see this for what it actually is, blatant electioneering and, what’s worse, using taxpayers’ money to do it.”

He also took issue with a paragraph in which Coun Akers-Belcher said: “I shall always strive to make robust decisions that chime with public expectations of good local government, reflecting the trust you place in our council under the new governance system.”

Coun Lilley likened it to something more commonly seen on an election leaflet.

But Coun Akers-Belcher, said he was simply keeping people updated in his role as council leader.

He said: “I attended a parish liaison meeting in March and following a discussion about the Local Plan, it was agreed that I would write to Hart Ward residents to update them, particularly in relation to the gypsy and traveller site which has been wholly withdrawn.

“I have also sent a copy of the letter to all parish councils so that they are fully informed of the latest position.”

He said he emailed some residents to minimise costs.

He added: “I will not allow party politics to get in the way of our ongoing work to make local people feel part of the council and involve them in decisions that affect them.

“This requires open, two-way, transparent communication which will continue to be a top priority for me.”

A council spokesman added: “The council’s returning officer has received a complaint from Councillor Lilley and it is being processed in the normal way.”