Labour Group hits out at new Hartlepool Borough Council leadership coalition

Hartlepool Labour Party members have hit out at the Independent Union and Conservative coalition after a new council leader was elected and committee chairs were chosen.

Wednesday, 22nd May 2019, 5:03 pm
From left, Coun Paddy Brown and Coun Dave Hunter.

Coun Shane Moore, leader of the coalition between the two parties, was elected as new leader of Hartlepool Borough Council at the annual council meeting on Tuesday evening.

Labour bosses hit out at Independent Union councillors, including the new leader, for the coalition with the Conservatives and for voting former leader Coun Christopher Akers-Belcher to be new chair of the regeneration committee.

Coun Moore responded stating they shared out chair and vice-chair positions fairly and in line with the constitution and made offers to all parties.

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Coun Akers-Belcher, of the Socialist Labour Party, said he was delighted to be named chair of regeneration and said he felt he is well-placed to carry out the role.

A statement from Labour leader Coun Paddy Brown and deputy leader Coun Dave Hunter following the meeting said they were “disgusted” Coun Moore voted in favour of Coun Akers-Belcher.

It said: “The Labour Group stayed true to their word and refused to support the new Tory coalition in Hartlepool.

“We were especially disgusted to see Shane Moore and his Independent Union colleagues vote for Christoper Akers-Belcher to take the chairmanship of the highly influential Regeneration Committee.

“The Tory/Independent Union coalition is now clearly in full blown alliance with the Socialist Labour, in the form of the Akers-Belcher. I thought we had seen the last of these people but the Independents just let them back in.

“The Labour Party will now sit in opposition, opposition to the Tories, opposition to the Socialist Labour Akers-Belcher, opposition to the rot that has infested, and continues to infest, our council.

“We will fight against the cuts that they want to impose on our services and we will fight for the reform we need to make our council truly open, transparent and accountable.”

The only member of the Independent Union and Conservative group who voted against Coun Akers-Belcher was Tony Richardson.

Two other members of the coalition abstained from the vote, Coun Tim Fleming and Veterans’ and People’s Party Coun Lee Cartwright.

Coun Moore hit back at the Labour Party and said he would not comment on individual councillors, urging everyone to work together for the better of the town.

He said: “It’s disappointing that a greatly diminished Labour Group of nine members wrongly believe they are still in a position to run this council despite the clear message from the public at the ballot box.

“The Independent Union, Conservative & VAPP coalition have been faithful to the promise in sharing out chair and vice-chair positions fairly and constitutionally right across the political spectrum, including offers to the Labour Party.

“Unfortunately, the Labour Party unable to realise that they were no longer in power attempted to make unreasonable demands that would have given them an unacceptable control of policy moving forward.

“We do not intend to make comments on individual councillors as we do not believe it’s helpful or productive, instead, we ask that all groups and council members stop with the petty party politics and work together to deal with the difficult times ahead in the best interests of our town.”

Coun Christopher Akers-Belcher said it was about picking the best person for the job and not party politics.

He said: “I’m delighted to be elected as chair of regeneration for Hartlepool council for this year.

“As leader of Hartlepool council I oversaw more external funding being brought into the town than ever before, so I’m well placed to ensure we can develop on these projects.

“This isn’t about party politics, it’s about someone having the skills and competency to deliver for the town.”

Labour’s Coun Brown and Coun Hunter also said they wanted to see a fresh start for the council and said they voted for Putting Seaton First’s Coun James Black over Coun Akers-Belcher for the regeneration post this reason.

They said: “We were prepared to support the Independent Union and had secured the Labour Party’s agreement to play our active part by taking chair and vice chair positions as outlined in our offer.

“It could have been a fresh start for our council; instead it would appear that the Independent Union has opted for more of the same.

“Labour, under my leadership, will put principle before personal gain. We will not support a  coalition that includes the Tories or Socialist Labour because I do not believe they have the interests of our town at heart.

“However, we will stand by those councillors who want change. We voted for Putting Seaton First’s James Black because he is a man of principle who believes in making our council better. Again, it is such a tragedy that the coalition voted against him.”

Nic Marko , Local Democracy Reporting Service