A COUNCIL leader has hit out at another councillor for voting against plans to use an unexpected cash windfall to help repair roads with, employ enforcement officers and fund a free swim scheme for children.
Hartlepool Borough Council is to receive a significant lump sum from the owners of the Sports Domes at Seaton Carew in exchange for the release of the authority’s financial interest in the development.
At a recent finance and policy committee meeting, council leader Christopher Akers-Belcher proposed using the confidential amount for a series of proposals.
They include managing the risks around the £1.5m two-year interest-free loan from a Government growth fund used to buy Jacksons Landing, running the popular free swimming scheme over the six-week summer holidays at Mill House Leisure Centre and employing two new enforcement officers.
It also included adding to the £131,000 Government funding to help fund an extra 10 road resurfacing schemes across Hartlepool.
Despite other committee members backing the plans, Putting Hartlepool First councillor Geoff Lilley voted against “in principle” because he felt “uncomfortable” agreeing to ringfence the money after being put on the spot.
Speaking afterwards, the council leader said he was “absolutely appalled” when Coun Lilley, Putting Hartlepool First’s spokesman, voted against the proposals.
Coun Akers-Belcher added: “Despite the unprecedented cuts in Government funding, as leader of Hartlepool Borough Council, I must remain positive about our future and forge ahead with initiatives that will make our great town a better place to live.
“All three proposals would and will improve the lives for so many of the residents in Hartlepool.
“As elected members I believe we must always make robust decisions that chime with the needs and aspirations of residents.
“This clear and deliberate act, to oppose my resident-led proposals demonstrates just how ‘out of touch’ they really are from resident expectations.
“Thankfully the initiatives will be implemented as they were endorsed by every other committee member.”
In response, Coun Lilley said: “I don’t object to the money being spent where it is being spent.
“The point was that this should have gone through a proper procedure through the usual guidelines so that members were aware of other options.
“There was plenty of time for that to be an agenda item at a future meeting, that is good governance.”
The council agreed to the release of a restrictive covenant on the Domes land in 2012 to allow it to be disposed of for a neighbouring residential development, with the proceeds of the sale invested by the owner to develop the Domes.
It was agreed subject to repayment over 15 years, but now a lump sum offer has been accepted.
Bosses at the Domes, in Tees Road, say it will allow them to secure further investment in the site and to add more facilities. The site already includes two domes for football and golf, a health and fitness studio and an ice rink to follow.
The committee agreed to ringfence the money, with further reports going to the neighbourhood services committee and the proposals will need final approval from full council.