Group hits out at Hartlepool mayor over role at crisis-hit charity

Stephen Akers-Belcher.
Stephen Akers-Belcher.

HARTLEPOOL’S ceremonial mayor has hit back after a political group criticised him for resigning from the board of a crisis-hit charity before taking steps to remove the management.

Geoff Lilley, spokesman for Putting Hartlepool First, hit out at Labour councillor Stephen Akers-Belcher who stepped down last week from the board of Manor Residents’ Association (MRA), in Kilmarnock Road, after the charity was ordered to pay almost £4,000 to a second worker, Carl Williams, who wasn’t paid the national minimum wage.

But Coun Akers-Belcher said he has done nothing wrong and said he left over concerns about the “significant” lack of information and transparency around recent employment tribunal cases, which led to MRA manager and former councillor Angie Wilcox resigning her seat on Hartlepool Council.

Fellow Labour councillor Paul Beck has also resigned from the board.

Coun Lilley said: “According to the Charity Commissions’ own guidelines, it is the Trustees, like councillors Akers-Belcher and Paul Beck, who have and must accept ultimate responsibility for directing the affairs of a charity, and ensuring that it is solvent, well-run, meeting all legal requirements and delivering the charitable outcomes for the benefit of the public for which it has been set up.

“Clearly the Trustees have singularly failed to do this so far and Coun Akers-Belcher appears to have confirmed this by running away from his own responsibilities as the scale of the mis-management has become clear.”

Coun Lilley added: “All of the Trustees should resign, but only after the removal of the present manager, Angela Wilcox from her position.”

But Coun Akers-Belcher said: “I have done nothing wrong and neither has Paul Beck.

“The reason I resigned was because of the tribunal cases and the lack of information and transparency. It went against my principles.

“This is getting political because there is a by-election and Coun Lilley should concentrate on doing some good in his ward instead of sitting on the sidelines sniping.

“He should start putting Hartlepool first and come up with some positive policies.”

Mr Williams, 25, who is still employed by MRA, had worked for 16-months for as little as £4.42 an hour and also paid tax and national insurance deductions that the HMRC had no record of.

In April, MRA was ordered to pay almost £9,000 to former cleaner Lynda Gooding who was also paid under national minimum wage.