Meeting over Hartlepool mayor vital for ‘good name’ of council

Geoff Lilley.
Geoff Lilley.

A SENIOR councillor claims that an extraordinary meeting being held to discuss the future of an under-fire mayor is vital to preserving the “good name of Hartlepool Borough Council”.

Putting Hartlepool First councillor Geoff Lilley was one of five members who put pressure on the local authority to hold a meeting after it emerged Ceremonial Mayor Stephen Akers-Belcher had been sacked from his role as a care manager with Newcastle City Council.

Councillor Stephen Akers-Belcher

Councillor Stephen Akers-Belcher

Coun Lilley, along with fellow PHF representatives David Riddle and Keith Dawkins, independent Labour’s Jonathan Brash and independent Paul Thompson, all put forward a request for a meeting to discuss the mayor’s future.

They were initially held up by red tape, but were told last week that the meeting would take place on Monday, October 13, after the mayor was consulted during a holiday in Mexico.

Coun Lilley paid tribute to Coun Brash for his part in arranging the meeting, and said the outcome could shape the way the council is perceived.

He said: “People are talking about this story, they are stopping me in the street to ask about it.

“It has caused a great deal of interest, but it isn’t just about the issue with Newcastle City Council now, as other things have come to light in recent days.

“People might say this is personal, but I can assure you it isn’t. It is about upholding the good name of Hartlepool Borough Council.

“That name has been dragged through the mud in the last couple of weeks, and the right thing needs to be done now.

“Jonathan Brash deserves a huge amount of credit for putting the pressure on to get this meeting held.

“It hasn’t been easy, but he has shown a great deal of determination and tenacity.”

After details of the mayor’s sacking were made public, further allegations over his conduct – and that of councillors Ray Martin-Wells and Carl Richardson – were made to Cleveland Police by bosses at Radio Hartlepool.

Coun Lilley added: “We have said all the long that the mayor needs to stand down until these matters are resolved one way or another.

“He needs to step down and see if the claims being made against him are either proven or dismissed.

“That will all come out in due course when investigations or appeals are completed.

“But in the meantime he needs to do the right thing for the town as the reputation of Hartlepool is at stake here.”

The meeting will be held at the Civic Centre on Monday, October 13, at 7pm.