Hartlepool Borough Council chief faces leadership contest as councillors vote tonight

Hartlepool Labour Group councillors will tonight hold a vote to decide its leader.

Tuesday, 18th December 2018, 3:05 pm
Updated Tuesday, 18th December 2018, 3:08 pm
Hartlepool Civic Centre.
Hartlepool Civic Centre.

Councillor Dave Hunter, who represents Burn Valley on Hartlepool Borough Council, has put himself forward to stand against current leader Coun Christopher Akers-Belcher.

A secret ballot is due to take place tonight.

Councillor Dave Hunter. Picture by Frank Reid.

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It comes after party chiefs in the Hartlepool Constituency Labour Party (CLP) passed a motion of no confidence in Coun Akers-Belcher and requested he resign.

The CLP wrote to all 18 Labour councillors on the council asking them to take action as a result.

Despite putting himself forward to lead the group, Coun Hunter stressed it is not a challenge to Coun Akers-Belcher and he does not expect to win.

But he said he wants to stimulate debate about how the group can work differently for the good of the town and ‘reconnect’ with residents.

Councillor Christopher Akers-Belcher, Leader of Hartlepool Borough Council and council Labour Group leader.

Coun Hunter said: “A lot of people are referring to it as a challenge, it’s not a challenge.

“It’s just putting forward an alternative solution to where we are.

“I’m not going to win the vote, I know that. It’s no real threat to Christopher and it’s not intended to be.

“It is just a barometer to judge where we are in terms of feeling of the other members of the Labour Group.

“It will then bring a period of calm for the next three months because nobody can challenge where we can work together, see how we can change things, see how we can move forward and see how we can deliver what’s right for the town.

“It is also to look at how we can reconnect with the public that I feel we are losing.”

Coun Hunter wants to see the council implement its own version of the so-called Preston Model of localism which looks to procure local products and services to bring more money to the town.

He said such a model would help Hartlepool become less reliant on council tax income.

Coun Hunter said: “We need to look at how we can generate community wealth, supporting new businesses, driving money into the town instead of sending it out in terms of procurement and services.

“And really making the money in the town work for the people in the town.

“We’ve seen how successful Preston has been; it is hailed as the benchmark.

“If we can even get 70% of that success we will have moved on phenomenally as a town and we will become a growth town and that helps everybody.”

Coun Akers-Belcher declined to comment ahead of the meeting.