Hartlepool councillor cleared over contract claims

Councillor Pam Hargreaves. Picture by FRANK REID. IRN
Councillor Pam Hargreaves. Picture by FRANK REID. IRN

A COUNCILLOR investigated over claims 28 contracts were awarded to her company by the local authority without going through the proper process has been cleared by council bosses.

Hartlepool councillor Pamela Hargreaves, who owns business development firm Xivvi, vehemently denied the claims and said it “feels good” to have been totally cleared of the allegations.

A council report, seen by the Mail, concludes that there is no evidence of any wrongdoing and no need for further action.

The issue came to light at a recent heated meeting of the full council when council leader Christopher Akers-Belcher claimed the former Labour councillor had failed to declare her interest when she was portfolio holder for regeneration back in 2011 and accused her of changing procedures to give her a “distinct advantage” in the small business market.

He also claimed that 28 contracts had been awarded to Xivvi for goods and services without going through the procurement process.

But Coun Hargreaves said she always declares her interests, that services were always procured properly and that she had never altered the grant-making process.

The report, by Peter Devlin, the council’s chief solicitor, said he had “not found any evidence whereupon I need to inform any relevant statutory authority or agency”. He added: “Materially, the public need to know when any wrongdoing has taken place.

“To do otherwise would seriously undermine public confidence in the role of elected members and also has ramifications for officers.

“Under the terms of reference supplied by council I have found nothing which leads me to the conclusion that Councillor Hargreaves has used any undue influence or been complicit in any way in the procurement and commissioning of these “28 contracts” or has in any way acted inappropriately in her formal role as portfolio holder.

“I trust that she can take comfort in that, as can the council and the general public it seeks to serve.”

Coun Hargreaves, who refers to herself as independent Labour, but is classed as independent by the council, said: “Without doubt it feels good to be totally cleared of all of the trumped-up allegations but sadly for me this is just the latest in a string of personal attacks mounted over the last three years.

“Some of which were actually more sinister in nature and all of which came to nothing.

“I don’t know why I’m such a target, having done nothing, but constant personal attacks have cost me and my family greatly over the years – culminating in me being hounded out of the party I have supported for 20 years.

“I’m quite sure that Chris Akers-Belcher won’t be big enough to offer a full and public apology, but I do hope that we can all truly move on now - enough is enough.

“It’s time Labour put their energy into sorting out our town’s problems, stopped wasting time and got on with the job they were so desperate to get their hands on.”

The report is on the agenda for the regeneration services committee on August 29.

Coun Akers-Belcher said: “From my point of view I welcome the report and it can only be a good for the town to maintain the integrity of the council where public perception, in the wake of the Peer Review, calls into question members failure to declare their register of interests.

“It once again demonstrates the council is committed to openness and transparency and I am sure all the unanswered questions not contained within the report will be answered at the policy committee.

“Given the new governance arrangements have already generated projected savings for the council in excess of £4m and the Manor House by-election result members of the public already have confidence in the new administration in doing their utmost for our great town.”

Labour councillor Robbie Payne, chairman of the regeneration committee, tabled the motion at the end of the full meeting which called for the investigation.