Three long-serving Hartlepool councillors to step down in May
Three long-standing representatives on Hartlepool Borough Council will be stepping down from their positions in May.
Former council leader Cllr Christopher Akers-Belcher, former mayor Cllr Stephen Akers-Belcher and their Socialist Labour Party colleague Cllr Marjorie James will not seek re-election at the local council elections.
Cllr Christopher Akers-Belcher, who represents Foggy Furze, said he had already made the decision to retire from politics at the end of his term after he was last re-elected in 2016.
He said: “I’m very much looking forward to retiring from politics in May. I have to say that politics now is very different from when I was first elected to the Rossmere ward in 2009.
“I never envisaged I would have the huge privilege of being leader of Hartlepool Borough Council from 2013 to 2019 and I’m incredibly proud that we managed to lever in, in that time, over £200million of investment for Hartlepool.”
He added some of his proudest achievements while on the council include improvements around Church Street and Church Square, bringing the National Museum of the Royal Navy to Hartlepool and the development of the television and film studios at The Northern School of Art.
However he said he was most proud of the introduction of the town’s Syrian resettlement programme, which has seen 40 families and over 100 children come to call Hartlepool home.
He said: “Overall I definitely feel I’ve been part of history, but my greatest blessing has got to be our Syrian resettlement programme.
“It’s been an absolute pleasure to meet and help so many fantastic residents but I have to say the overriding thing for me is I want to spend more time with my husband Stephen.”
Cllr Stephen Akers-Belcher, who represents Manor House, said he would not be standing again due to increased work commitments.
He said: “From a personal point of view I’ve met some fantastic residents over a period of time, and sometimes people say residents can be quite difficult and some people have opinions about residents, but they’ve been great.
“People do want councillors who do community work as well as sitting in the civic centre, and that is something I’ve always taken seriously.
“We’ve got a lot of good people out there and a lot of decent people and I will always remember them fondly.”
Cllr Marjorie James, who also serves Manor House, said she has been on the council for 22 years across two terms, adding: “Some of the highlights for me are very, very personal to some residents, because getting the best for our residents has always been the bottom line for me and Stephen.
“We can all sit there and say we’ve done this and we’ve done that, but at the end of the day it’s for people to judge who they were willing to support time after time.
“There are very few councillors left at the moment that are still on the borough from when I first came into the borough, so things have changed.
“I’ve enjoyed being in my adopted home of Hartlepool, I moved here in 1992 and wouldn’t really have wanted to live anywhere else actually, I think it’s a lovely place, it’s got a really good future in front of it.”
The councillors were all speaking at the latest extraordinary council meeting.