A CIVIC leader has called for calm in the council chamber after describing recent events as “embarrassing”.
Hartlepool Borough Council has been rocked by controversy over the last few weeks, sparked by the revelation that ceremonial mayor Stephen Akers-Belcher had been sacked from his day job at Newcastle City Council for gross misconduct.
That led to calls for him to stand down from his role from opposition councillors, which culminated in an extraordinary meeting at the Civic Centre which ended up with councillors from all sides hurling abuse across the chamber in front of a packed public gallery.
A much-publicised row with Radio Hartlepool, which has the police involved, has also left a black cloud hanging over the local authority, while a meeting of full council next Thursday looks more than likely to turn into another slanging match as the in-fighting continues.
Chief Executive Dave Stubbs pulled no punches when speaking to the Mail about his opinion of recent events.
“It has been embarrassing over the last few weeks and it hasn’t helped the council one little bit.
“The extraordinary meeting didn’t do anyone any favours. The behaviour of some of the councillors that night, in front of about 100 members of the public, was wrong.
“It let down Hartlepool Borough Council, and all of the hard working office staff who work here doing a fantastic job.
“At times that meeting felt more like a school playground than a council chamber.
“I’m not blaming any individual, or any party, but collectively we need this to stop for the good of the council and the town.
“I understand council debates can get heated, that has always been the case. But it’s getting personal now, people are making complaints about each other, and it’s reached the stage where the Chief Solicitor is spending more time dealing with petty complaints than he is doing his day job.”
Mr Stubbs hopes his plea for calm won’t fall on deaf ears ahead of next Thursday’s meeting of full council.
He added: “I wish the councillors would focus on the positives. There is so much happening in the town that we should be proud of.
“Negative headlines don’t help anybody. It is the behaviour I am seeing and the way councillors are choosing to do things which is bringing it on the council.
“Some people may doubt the Hartlepool Vision and say it’s never going to happen, but the plans are there. Let’s try and embrace it and to be positive.
“We’re on the verge of a schools transformation programme where the aim is to have every school in the town as good or excellent next year, it’s exciting times at the Art college, we’ve got the good news about the National Royal Navy Museum and the Youth Employment Initiative.
“We had the triathlon recently, hundreds of people took part in that, there are so many things we should be proud of.
“I’m born and bred in Hartlepool, and all I care about is taking Hartlepool forward.
“But while everyone is fighting with each other and throwing accusations about, it’s dragging us all down.
“It’s reached the stage where we have to say ‘enough’s enough’.
“Let’s get on with running the town.”