No further action following probe into Hartlepool Mayor’s conduct

Coun Stephen Akers-Belcher, the former Mayor of Hartlepool.
Coun Stephen Akers-Belcher, the former Mayor of Hartlepool.

No further action will be taken over claims a councillor was disrespectful when he chaired a heated council meeting.

An investigation was launched in relation to the chairing of an extraordinary meeting held at Hartlepool Civic Centre by Coun Stephen Akers-Belcher, who was Hartlepool Mayor at the time, on February 16.

It was alleged that his conduct and behaviour in chairing that meeting, which was held to discuss North Tees and Hartlepool NHS Foundation Trust’s Quality Accounts 2014/2015, was in contravention of the Council’s Code of Conduct.

The complaints received suggest breaches of two of the “general obligations” contained within the code.

These were ‘you must treat others with respect’ and ‘you must not conduct yourself in a matter which is contrary to the authority’s duty to promote and maintain high standards of conduct amongst its members’.

One of the main issues was the terminology used by Coun Akers-Belcher in closing the meeting, which had became ‘heated’.

However, a report by the Peter Devlin, the council’s monitoring officer, which was due to heard by the audit and governance committee at 11am today, has ruled that the code has not been breached.

Mr Devlin wrote in his report: “This is an extremely difficult case but, on balance, I would concur with the conclusion that the Code of Conduct has not been breached.

“Whilst the apparent use of the terms “close/closing” is unfortunate, I would suggest that the heated and volatile atmosphere of the meeting would be mitigating factors for what I believe to have been an honest misuse of terminology.”