Calls to scrap Hartlepool’s mayor-making ceremony and ban purchase of alcohol for civic events

Hartlepool Civic Centre.
Hartlepool Civic Centre.

A councillor has called for the ceremonial mayor-making ceremony to be scrapped and council representatives to be banned from buying alcohol for civic events.

Coun James Black called for the motion at a full meeting of Hartlepool Borough Council as part of amendments to the council constitution.

Deputy mayor, Coun Rob Cook and current Mayor, Coun Allan Barclay

Deputy mayor, Coun Rob Cook and current Mayor, Coun Allan Barclay

However councillors and officers noted further discussions would be needed and the budget for 2019/20 has already been set, but a review of civic expenditure and refreshments is planned in the next financial year.

Councillors also strongly defended the heritage and networking opportunities of the ceremonial mayor making ceremony, which they said was key for securing charity funds.

Coun James Black said: “You are talking about millions of savings needing to be made, hugely difficult decisions and cuts to be made to our front line services, yet we continue to spend needless sums on a ceremonial party for the few.

“I would therefore ask as part of our review of civil expenditure we review our ceremonial participation in events, including those held by Hartlepool Borough Council.

“I would also like to propose we hold a recorded vote on the banning on the purchase of alcohol by the council, for the members, for the dignitaries, to lead by an example as per the rules that our officers follow on an everyday party.”

Coun Stephen Akers-Belcher, former mayor of Hartlepool, defended the mayoral ceremony and noted the amount of time and work which mayors carry out, for the town and for charity.

He said: “Anyone who has been in this position will understand it is a networking opportunity.

“My concern around this is the charitable side of it and building relationships up. Over my year I raised £118,000 for charities within this town.

“By cutting the ceremonial mayor side you’re at risk of a vacuum being created and charities losing out.

“Being there is not a jolly, it’s not a case of going out, when you go out and you’re networking it becomes quite time consuming.

“When you’re mayor you’re almost taken away from family and friends because if you’re doing the job correctly you’re very busy and you’re getting our there and doing the job of mayor.

“It should be a privilege to be the mayor of Hartlepool.”

Council leader Coun Christopher Akers-Belcher said he had already stated civic expenditure, including spending on refreshments, would be reviewed as part of next year’s budget.

He said: “The next report I will be taking is about what we can do in year around civic expenditure and I have made a commitment to bring that back and there will be a further report to address everything with regards to next years budget.”

Chief Executive Gill Alexander said a recommendation such as removing the ceremonial mayor ceremony would have to go before the constitution committee and for further legal opinion.

She added a review of refreshments would come as as part of the next review of civic expenditure.

Coun John Tennant accepted the point on alcohol but questioned further details of the plan.

He said: “The balance of price in regards to alcohol, you can buy a can of John Smith’s at Asda much more cheaply than a bottle of sparkling water.

“Do we ask ourselves do we just ban alcohol entirely, which I understand the point of view, or do we just ban spending anything on an item of refreshment what so ever?”

Mayor Coun Allan Barclay moved there would be no vote on the item to ban alcohol due to no section for it on the constitution.

Nic Marko , Local Democracy Reporting Service