Mayor hits out at low turnout

HARTLEPOOL Mayor Stuart Drummond has spoken of his disappointment after people voted to scrap the position.

Mayor Drummond said he accepted the people’s decision to switch to a committee system – but hit out at the low turnout.

He said he does not know what he will do when he leaves his job next May and said he will use the time to consider all his options.

Speaking to the Mail the morning after the referendum, Mayor Drummond said: “I’m obviously disappointed. I think it’s the best system of local governance we have in this country and it works.

“However, the people of Hartlepool have had their say and they’re very rarely wrong, so I accept what the result is and will see how it pans out.”

The turnout for the referendum was just 18 per cent with 7,366 votes in favour of the committee system at Hartlepool Borough Council and just 5,177 people in favour of retaining a directly-elected mayor.

Mr Drummond added: “I’m very disappointed at the low turnout. Less than one in five people bothered to cast their vote.

“When you compare it with something like the presidential election in America where 90 odd per cent turned out, it is a bit of a sad state of affairs people can’t be bothered to have their say. But I guess it’s people’s choice.”

He added: “If people thought it was a vote for or against me it wasn’t, it was for the system of governance.”

Mayor Drummond will also relinquish the role of chair of Cleveland Police Authority next week following the introduction of new police commissioners.

He said: “I have got six months to consider my options and have a look around.

“It will be a bit of a fresh start and I don’t want to tie myself down to anything at the moment.”

The mayor chaired a portfolio meeting yesterday morning for regeneration and neighbourhood issues which he has responsibility for.

At one stage he made light of his new situation, proposing to defer one item on the agenda for six months.

Mayor Drummond said he will work with councillors to make sure the switch of systems goes as smoothly as possible.

He added: “The day-to-day business of the council will go on. It doesn’t change any of the challenges we face and he level of cuts that we are facing.

“There is still the very important task of setting next year’s budget which is ongoing and that will continue.”

Mayor Drummond said his highlights in office include getting re-elected twice.

He said there had been improvements in virtually every area from housing and regeneration to children’s services.

“We have consistently punched well above our weight and been in the top five performing councils throughout my time,” he said.

“That’s not just down to me but all the excellent staff we have here.

“I’ve been particularly involved in community safety and crime levels are at the lowest they have been which is satisfying.

“I’ve never really looked back though because the magnitude of challenges presented every day for Hartlepool is always going to be fighting an uphill battle, particularly now we’ve got a Government that seems intent on widening the divide between north and south.”