Fresh calls for Hartlepool mayor to stand down over charity group court case

Hartlepool mayor Stephen Akers-Belcher
Hartlepool mayor Stephen Akers-Belcher

FRESH calls were made for a mayor to stand down over his involvement with a residents’ group at the centre of a court case.

Calls were made for Hartlepool Borough Council’s ceremonial mayor, Coun Stephen Akers-Belcher to stand aside while a court case is underway focusing on the management of Manor Residents’ Association.

The charity’s former boss Angie Wilcox and two other ex-MRA employees have been charged with a string of offences by Cleveland Police over financial irregularities.

The latest call follows the Extraordinary Meeting of the Full Council held on October 13, when a motion was put forward by opposition members asking for Coun Stephen Akers-Belcher to relinquish his ceremonial mayoral responsibilities until a dispute with Newcastle City Council is brought to an end.

Coun Akers-Belcher, who did not take part in that meeting as he was at the centre of the discussions, was sacked from his day job on Tyneside for gross misconduct.

Despite staying in his role after that meeting, new calls were made for him to stand down at a meeting of the Full Council this week.

Coun Paul Thompson, independent representative for Seaton, raised the issue before Coun Akers-Belcher immediately left the meeting after stating he would once again have to declare an interest and leave the room.

He was quickly followed by council leader Coun Christopehr Akers-Belcher, and with deputy ceremonial mayor Coun Mary Fleet not in attendance it was left to Coun Carl Richardson to chair the meeting.

Coun Thompson raised the question: “Given the facts that the manager of MRA has been charged, I ask have you given any further consideration to the request to stand down?

“I’ve asked the question to someone who isn’t here, so I put it publically.”

Coun Richardson replied that the question was “out of order” because of the police involvement, to which Coun Thompson replied that his question did not imply anything of anyone involved in the situation, but was merely repeating the call for Coun Akers-Belcher to stand down in light of another “scandal”.

Chief solicitor Peter Devlin advised he had concerns about the matter being debated and ordered members to move onto the next item.

But before Coun Akers-Belcher returned to the meeting, Coun Paul Beck - who was formerly involved with MRA - told the meeting: “Myself and Stephen Akers-Belcher were not legally trustees of MRA.

“For my part I’ve not been involved by the police. My conscience is clear.”

Prior to that discussion, members were told that legally they would be unable to respond to three public questions regarding a row involving councillors and Radio Hartlepool as police are still looking into the matter.

Speaking after the meeting, Coun Akers-Belcher said: “The word resign is being used too frequently by the opposition and without substance.

“I deny any wrongdoing, and have no intention of standing down.”