“I wouldn’t wish it on anybody”

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MAYOR Stuart Drummond has defended his decision to sensationally axe six Labour cabinet members and said he wouldn’t have wished the role of chairman of Cleveland Police Authority (CPA) on “anybody”.

Mayor Drummond received criticism in December 2011 when he was elected chair of CPA, while still holding the position of mayor and in June 2012 he said it was “business as usual” after being re-elected as chairman.

He received £22,734 for his chairman’s commitments on a pro rata basis until the CPA was replaced by Police and Crime Commissioner Barry Coppinger.

He was chairman during a turbulent spell, which included Sean Price being suspended as Chief Constable of Cleveland Police after an investigation into his conduct and the ongoing criminal investigation Operation Sacristy, a police inquiry into alleged corrupt activities in Cleveland Police and the CPA.

Mayor Drummond said for him, taking on the role was never about the money and puts the criticism around the allowance down to “petty jealousy”.

He added: “No amount of money could have compensated for the amount of hassle and difficulty that I had to go through as chair of the police authority.

“It was extremely tough and tougher than any situation I have been in with the council, it is something I wouldn’t wish on anybody.

“Just to put it into perspective, there hasn’t been a chief constable sacked from his job for 35 years, there hasn’t been a chief constable arrested for over 70 years and there has never been a chief and deputy chief arrested at the same time.

“It was unchartered waters and extremely difficult to get through.”

Mayor Drummond, who said he never planned to become chairman, added: “It was an organisation that was in absolute chaos and at a time when there was a budget deficit and no medium term financial strategy to cover that deficit.

“I’m not looking for any sympathy, but it took up a lot of time and it was very stressful.

“That has really given me an enforced believe in what public service and good governance should be about.”

He said the authority’s corporate code of governance has been revamped and said Mr Coppinger has inherited a “well run, well governed organisation”.

As Mayor Drummond prepares to leave office he also defended his stance to cull Labour cabinet councillors in February 2012.

Jonathan Brash, Pamela Hargreaves, Ged Hall, Chris Simmons, Robbie Payne and Peter Jackson were axed after failing to back their own proposals for Hartlepool Borough Council’s 2012-13 budget.

The decision was taken after they failed to attend a full council meeting that saw amended budget plans – put forward by the Labour Group – approved.

Mayor Drummond, who said he didn’t have a choice but to sack them, added: “A lot of them I had worked extremely closely with over the years and some of them were friends as well as colleagues, but they left me in an impossible situation.

“In a lot of ways it made my job a bit easier, as it was a smaller team.

“Although I took more on, it meant I could just get on and do it.”