HARTLEPOOL Mayor Stuart Drummond was forced to defend his stance over the Tall Ships cash deficit amid calls for him to resign.
The Mayor was stunned by resident Fred Corbett’s shock demand for him to step down during a Hartlepool Borough Council meeting.
During the first half of the full council meeting on Thursday night, members of the public were allowed to ask councillors and the Mayor questions relating to the budget, and the second half saw the budget set.
Mr Corbett asked a question about the loss of money arising from last year’s Tall Ships Races event.
He asked if the Mayor and his cabinet agreed that the council should bid for the event in future.
Mayor Drummond replied: “We haven’t discussed it.”
Mr Corbett asked if anyone who worked on the planning of the Tall Ships event would be made subject of disciplinary action following the loss.
Mr Drummond said the shortfall occurred because the council didn’t receive the income projected through park and ride schemes.
He also said no one could have predicted exactly how it would run, as the traffic system “worked like a dream” when the council expected “tailbacks down the A19”.
“The council agreed to fund the deficit”, he added.
“The Tall Ships was the best event Hartlepool is ever likely to host.
“The impact that is going to have on generations to come, you can’t put a price on that. It was £2m very well-spent.”
But Mr Corbett replied: “The Tall Ships event was a good weekend – that’s all it was.
“It doesn’t alter the fact that over £2m in the current economic climate was used in the event and it could have been used elsewhere.
“The Tall Ships has cost this council and the people of Hartlepool a fortune.
“Don’t you think you should do the decent thing and resign?”
But Mayor Drummond said the majority of people had contacted him and praised the “fantastic” event.
He added: “I think the legacy will not be that it cost the town a fortune because it didn’t.
“It cost £3.9m to put on.
“We get nothing for free and we managed to secure funding from other public bodies.”
He said the legacy had led to a great sense of Hartlepool pride.
“We had people coming up and saying ‘I didn’t realise Hartlepool was so fantastic’,” added the Mayor.
“The vast majority of people in this town are proud to live here.
“They were more than proud when we delivered the world this fantastic event.
“Anybody who wants to degrade that is not fit to be called a Hartlepudlian.”
The chamber erupted in applause at this comment.
The council will receive £14.2m less in Government grants - down 19 per cent on the previous year.