Hartlepool Council leader defends committee selections after criticism

Christopher Akers-Belcher
Christopher Akers-Belcher

A COUNCIL leader has defended the process of selecting councillors for the posts of chairmen or women for various committees.

Labour councillor Christopher Akers-Belcher, leader of Hartlepool Borough Council, insists the Labour Group has “adhered completely” to the advice given by the chief solicitor and refuted claims it is unfair.

It comes after Putting Hartlepool First (PHF) spokesman, councillor David Riddle, and councillor Jonathan Brash called for it to be more “proportionate”.

Coun Riddle said it seems “highly likely” the Conservative group, which make up just nine per cent of the council, will gain several committee chairmanships while PHF, UKIP and the independent councillors, who make up collectively 33 per cent of the council, are likely to hold zero committee chairmen or women.

But Coun Akers-Belcher said at the recent round table meetings, ahead of full council, no independent members or UKIP members attended despite being invited – and said neither UKIP, PHF or the independent councillors had put nominations forward for vice chairmanship positions, including the consultative forums.

He added: “The Labour Group has adhered completely with the advice given by the chief solicitor.

“Those alleging unfairness have been offered many positions on committees, which remain vacant, yet want to challenge those positions, which attract additional allowances.”

Conservative group leader, Ray Martin-Wells, said: “In accordance with proportionality the Conservative group have only put themselves forward for positions broadly in line with their allocation.

“I can’t understand how political groups can voice their concerns, but then at the end of the round table meeting there were still five vice-chair positions vacant.”

The Conservatives have put members forward for chairman of licensing and chairman of audit and governance, both of which are expected to go to a vote, and vice-chairman of planning committee.

A council spokesman said under national legislation, the council needs to ensure, “so far as is reasonably practicable”, that the allocation of seats on committees and certain outside bodies is representative of the political groups. But that does not extend to chairmanships and vice-chairmanships.

Full council meets Tuesday, June 10 at 7pm in the Civic Centre, Victoria Road.


Committee meeting clarified

THE Mail would like to clarify an article in Thursday’s paper about concerns over selecting councillors for the posts of chairmen or women for various committees.

The article stated that Hartlepool Council leader, councillor Christopher Akers-Belcher, had said that no independent or UKIP councillors had attended the recent round table meetings ahead of full council, despite being invited.

This was not correct. Coun Akers-Belcher had only referred to the round table meeting on Tuesday, June 3, which was not attended by independent and UKIP councillors, and not to an earlier round table meeting at the end of May, which was attended by independent and UKIP councillors.