Hartlepool councillors to face public at two meetings as leader says he wants residents involved in decisions

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RESIDENTS will have the chance to question senior councillors when they face the public at two neighbourhood forum meetings next week.

Officials say it is part of Hartlepool Borough Council’s push to encourage public participation with town residents and the business community.

Following the referendum and abolition of the directly-elected mayor system in May this year – which senior councillors say will save the council £1.4m over the next 10 years - the council is now run by a council leader and a committee system.

Council leader Christopher Akers-Belcher said the new system provides people with more opportunities to be involved in the decision-making process.

Neighbourhood forum meetings will take place on Wednesday, July 10 and residents are being urged to go along and air their views.

The North and Coastal forum takes place at the Civic Centre, in Victoria Road, at 10am while the South and Central forum takes place at the same venue, starting at 2pm.

The North and Coastal forum is chaired by Labour councillor Sylvia Tempest and the South and Central forum is chaired by Labour councillor Kevin Cranney.

Coun Akers-Belcher is due to give a short presentation at both meetings on the council’s financial position after Chancellor George Osborne’s recent spending review and members of the public will then have the opportunity to ask questions.

Coun Akers-Belcher said the new-look council is determined to be a “listening council” and he has urged people to go along to the ‘face the public’ events next week.

The chairs of the council’s four other policy committees will also be there to answer questions on their areas of responsibility.

The committees are children’s services, adult services, neighbourhood services and regeneration services.

Coun Akers-Belcher said: “Following the abolition of the directly-elected mayor system, we are determined that the new council will be a listening council that takes local people’s views onboard.

“With the significant cutbacks in Government grant, the council faces some massive challenges over the next few years but the views of local people are important to us in helping to plan for the future.

“The neighbourhood forum meetings are one of several opportunities that local people now have to voice their opinions and I hope people do come along to join in the debate which will help shape our town’s future.”

At the North and Coastal forum there will also be an update on the council’s environmental enforcement role including tackling dog fouling and people dropping litter.

In May, Labour group leader Coun Akers-Belcher took over the reins as council leader as part of major changes to the way the local authority is run.

The directly-elected post of Mayor, previously held by Stuart Drummond, was scrapped in favour of a committee system with a council leader.

Coun Akers-Belcher took the top job because he is leader of the largest political group on Hartlepool Council.