Hartlepool Councillor Stephen Akers-Belcher suspended by party over claim he delivered rival’s election leaflet

A councillor has hit out at the Labour party after he was suspended over claims he leafletted on behalf of a rival candidate.

Tuesday, 23rd April 2019, 13:02 pm
Updated Tuesday, 23rd April 2019, 13:09 pm
Hartlepool Borough Councillor Stephen Akers Belcher with his Labour Party letter. Picture by FRANK REID

Coun Stephen Akers-Belcher, who represents the Manor House ward on Hartlepool Borough Council and is married to council leader Christopher Akers-Belcher, says he found out about the move by party bosses via a Facebook post.

He said when he questioned leaders, he was then sent a letter from its general secretary explaining its decision.

It has been claimed he has delivered a leaflet for fellow ward member Coun Allan Barclay, who now represents the Socialist Labour Party, after he left Labour earlier this month over a series of concerns including anti-Semitism, homophobia and racism.

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It also follows on from the resignation from the same party by Coun Sandra Belcher, the Jesmond Ward member who is Stephen Akers-Belcher’s mother, who also cited concerns about homophobia and racism in the party in her reasons for leaving.

Neither Councillor Barclay nor Belcher were selected by the local branches of the Labour Party in Manor House Ward and Jesmond Ward respectively in July last year, some 10 months before next month’s local elections on May 2.

Both councillors could have decided to stand for selection in another branch last July, but chose not to.

The party has confirmed Coun Stephen Akers-Belcher has been suspended pending investigation.

It added: “We can confirm we have received a number of complaints which are being investigated in line with our procedures.”

Today, Coun Akers-Belcher said he had been “disgusted” by the actions of the party he has been a member of for 22 years, but that it had also relieved him of the stress he has been under following complaints he had made about the behaviour of other members.

Labour Spokesperson said, “We can confirm we have received a number of complaints which are being investigated in line with our procedures.”

Coun Akers-Belcher said: “There has been a civil war in the Labour Party locally as well as nationally and there have been unpleasant acts within the Labour Party.

“There have been complaints put in by other people in Hartlepool and have continued to put in complaints about hatred, about racism and anti-Semitism, as well as concerns raised by me.

“I’m quite disgusted with the general secretary and Labour Party officials, because to put it into perspective, I’ve put these complaints in for months now, and they have not suspended anybody, but within a couple of days of one put in about me, and I’ve been suspended quite quickly.

“I joined the Labour Party to fight for social justice when I was 17 and there was a lot of talk about tacking inequality.

“Labour North has provided no information, I’ve put in 22 years of service and it’s for the party to provide robust evidence of this and also look at the way I found out by someone else putting it on Facebook.

“I contacted the regional director, Fiona Stanton, and I said I was shocked and sad about finding out about through this person.

“I feel the suspension has been a relief for me, I’ve dedicated 22 years of my life and first became politicised when I was 12 and I’m 40 this year, but I feel like a weight has been lifted off my shoulders.”

Coun Akers-Belcher, who helps run the Rift House Community Centre and sits on the council committees including planning and neighbourhood services, said the decision would not impact on his role as a ward member, with his area also represented by Labour member Marjorie James.

“I will still represent them, despite my suspension, and I will work with Allan Barclay and Marjorie James to do what we have always done,” he said.

“We have been a fantastic team over the years and I’ve been a councillor for 15 years, although there have been some boundary changes, but we have worked together as a team to get things done.

“Allan is now with a different party and I will still work with Allan, he’s a great councillor, and I will work with Marjorie, so residents know there will be no change and I will be getting on with the job I was elected to do.

“There will be no change to the work I do as a community volunteer at the centre, which I effectively manage, and the other thing I would like to say is to thank people for their support, because honestly, I have been quite shocked about how much support I’ve had from people who have sent messages.”