Mayor: No decision yet on cabinet cull

Stuart Drummond
Stuart Drummond

HARTLEPOOL Mayor Stuart Drummond will wait until after the local election in May before deciding whether to reduce the size of his cabinet committee.

Mayor Drummond chairs Hartlepool Borough Council’s nine-strong cabinet committee.

But he has been quizzed over whether he would be reducing the size when the number of councillors is slashed by around a third from 47 to 33 after the election in May.

The shake-up is part of major electoral changes which will also see the number of wards reduce from 17 to 11.

Mayor Drummond responded to a question from Labour councillor Rob Cook at Monday’s cabinet meeting.

The cabinet met to discuss a series of proposals including plans to reduce the number of scrutiny forums and committees at Hartlepool Borough Council.

Coun Cook said: “Will the cabinet committee be reducing by a third?”

In response, Mayor Drummond said: “Possibly.”

He went on to say: “The size of the cabinet can be between two and nine as set out in the local government act and therefore it is at the disposal of whoever is mayor or council leader.

“I will make a decision on the size of the cabinet when we have seen the results of the election.

“I would be slightly wary of doing anything about that now.

“I am very aware that the size of the council is reducing and I’m not going to do anything to go against what we are trying to do here.”

The cabinet is made up of Labour councillors Chris Simmons, Peter Jackson, Jonathan Brash, Ged Hall, Robbie Payne and Pamela Hargreaves and independent councillors Hilary Thompson and Cath Hill.

Coun Cook said if the cabinet was reduced it would allow more members to take part in the scrutiny forums, which could reduce from six to four.

Cabinet backed proposals to merge the neighbourhood services and regeneration and planning services scrutiny forums and the health scrutiny forum and the adult and community services forum.

They also gave their backing to abolishing the constitution committee after the elections and the contract scrutiny committee.

Instead the monitoring officer will review the constitution, which Mayor Drummond said has been changed more times in nine years than the United States of America constitution has in 200, on a regular basis.

Councillors seminars could also be deleted from the council diary and replaced with ad hoc briefing sessions and a freeze imposed on councillor attendance where conference costs are incurred.

Cabinet members also backed plans to reduce the size of committees and forums to reflect the reduction in councillors.

Coun Cook, alongside Conservative group leader Ray Wells, presented a referral report from the scrutiny co-ordinating committee about the changes to the way the council works.

Scrutiny and cabinet clashed over some proposals with scrutiny wanting the constitution committee to remain and over plans to reduce the scrutiny forums.

But cabinet said they were confident it wouldn’t have an affect on the work of scrutiny and that the forums would have to prioritise.

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