Hartlepool council vote against £6,500 meeting chamber changes

Hartlepool Borough Council chamber
Hartlepool Borough Council chamber

Council bosses have opted against spending £6,500 on new technology and altering seating arrangements in its chamber.

Hartlepool Borough Council’s Constitution Committee discussed plans to install two speakers and a new amplifier and two 55 inch screens to the rear of the council chamber after complaints from the public over audio and visual issues.

Estimates suggested the sound system changes would cost £3,000, while the new screens and installation would cost more than £3,700.

However, councillors argued they could not justify spending the money on further technology in the chamber after a new sound system and screens were installed in November 2016.

Council leader and meeting chairman, Coun Christopher Akers-Belcher said meetings in the chamber have been going smoother than ever.

He said: “Once the elections are over it is about working as a group for the town.

“Council meetings are much calmer and more respectful than they ever have been.

“I could not argue to have further expenditure go on more screens when it’s minimal complaints we’ve received.

“We must sort audio out but I don’t feel we need to use expenditure for half a dozen complaints made over audio fails.”

Coun Ann Marshall said: “I’m over the moon with how it is set up now.

“We have to find £6million which we are behind in our budget, I’m not happy spending anything more.”

However the councillors vowed they would make sure audio issues in the chamber were rectified.

The meeting was told complaints were made of the audio at the May 22 full council meeting, when councillors said there were ‘technical problems.’

Chief executive Gill Alexander said at the meeting a trial had been carried out on the sound system and it ‘worked perfectly’ but admitted there had been ‘teething problems’ since it was installed.

She also estimated around 10 complaints were made in total about the various issues.

A complaint had also been made about the seating arrangement of councillors, stating the current position with some having their backs to the public, is ‘offensive and disrespectful’.

But councillors said having tried various arrangements in the past this was the best to address council business.

Coun Shane Moore, speaking at the meeting, said: “In no way shape or form is it a sign of disrespect.

“We sit how we sit to best address the business of the council.

“Our council set up is in line with neighbouring authorities.”

Coun Brenda Loynes said: “I’m quite happy with the layout at the moment, I think we should leave it as it is.”

Meanwhile a request had also been received to the council by the Putting Hartlepool First (PHF) group, asking to be moved to the front of the chamber and the Conservative group moved to the back.

However councillors supported the current seating temporarily, and agreed to hold a discussion on where councillors sit on an annual basis following elections going forward.