Hartlepool’s Mayor loses bid to clear name over gross misconduct sacking

The Mayor of Hartlepool, Councillor Stephen Akers-Belcher
The Mayor of Hartlepool, Councillor Stephen Akers-Belcher

HARTLEPOOL’s Ceremonial Mayor has lost his attempt to clear his name over his sacking from his day job for gross misconduct.

Councillor Stephen Akers-Belcher was due to contest his dismissal from Newcastle City Council, where he was a manager for the authority’s Community Mental Health Service, at an employment tribunal later this month.

This was about returning back to a job I loved. Unfortunately, I didn’t achieve that.

Coun STephen Akers-Belcher

Coun Akers-Belcher, who represents Manor House ward, was sacked from his job where he managed a team of around 30 staff with Newcastle’s Community Mental Health Service last year.

But it has emerged that his claim for unfair dismissal was struck out by a judge at a hearing last month and the case listed for April 13 to 22 would not go ahead.

Outlining the reasons for the decision, the employment judge said that Coun Akers-Belcher had failed to comply with an order of the tribunal court made on February 18 by the given time.

Coun Akers-Belcher says he was not well enough to attend the court on March 9 due to recently coming out of hospital and had written asking for the hearing to be put back.

He said he was unaware of the court’s judgement until he was contacted by the Mail.

But he is standing by his claims and says he will not be resigning from Hartlepool Borough Council.

Coun Akers-Belcher said he was “disappointed” at the tribunal’s decision.

He said: “I think it doesn’t prove anything either way. To me it just leaves it inconclusive really.

“This was about returning back to a job I loved. Unfortunately, I didn’t achieve that.”

A spokesman for Newcastle City Council said: “We can confirm that on March 9, 2015 the Employment Tribunal gave its judgment that the claim brought by Stephen Akers-Belcher is struck out.

“We continue to stand by our view that when we dismissed him for gross misconduct we did so fairly.”

Coun Akers-Belcher’s sacking led to calls within Hartlepool council for him to step down as mayor until the matter was resolved, with opponents believing he was harming the reputation of the borough council.

Coun Akers-Belcher, who is standing down as mayor after the elections, said: “I haven’t done anything wrong. People may use it as an opportunity to have yet another go at me but I’m not ashamed.

“I know I can hold my head up high.

“It has got nothing to do with my council life. It is a separate matter.”

Independent councillor Paul Thompson, who was one of five councillors who called for him to stand down as mayor at an extraordinary council meeting last October, said: “There are now questions which will never be answered which will always loom over him as a councillor.

“The fact he refused to comply with an order of the court I think is disgraceful.

“Once again it raises questions about his suitability as a councillor in this town.”

And independent councillor Jonathan Brash added: “He should resign.”