London calling: All 36 Hartlepool councillors urged to visit capital in plea for more cash

A leading councillor has called on all 35 of his colleagues to join him in travelling to London to lobby for more council funding.

By Nic Marko
Friday, 1st October 2021, 4:53 pm
Updated Friday, 1st October 2021, 5:31 pm
All 36 Hartlepool councillors could visit Parliament to lobby the Government for more funding for the town.
All 36 Hartlepool councillors could visit Parliament to lobby the Government for more funding for the town.

It comes after Hartlepool Borough Council’s latest full council meeting approved a core council tax rise of 1.9%, along with a 3% increase in the adult social care precept, for the 2022-23 financial year.

After the meeting, in which the increases were approved by 19 votes to 12, independent Councillor Paddy Brown, one of those behind the Level-Up Hartlepool Campaign, called on councillors from across the chamber to join together in visiting Westminster to demand more funding.

The economic growth and regeneration committee chair is encouraging “all councillors” to visit for a day by train to lobby next month.

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The claim has been made by independent councillor Paddy Brown, who represents the Throston ward.

Speaking after the meeting, Cllr Brown said: “Unless the Government increase our funding back to where it was, there simply wouldn’t be enough services left to cut.

“We’re now getting down to the wire so I am writing to my councillor colleagues to invite them to travel down to Westminster and ask directly for our funding to return to the levels they were at prior to the £22million cut from our annual budget.”

Council leaders in Hartlepool, speaking at Thursday’s meeting, stressed they were left with “no other choice” by Government than the “very difficult decision” to raise council tax.

Independent Union’s Cllr Shane Moore, council leader, said: “I don’t think anybody in this chamber wants to increase council tax and we all have the same concerns around the fairness of the system.

“If we don’t approve the proposals we’ll not get any sympathy from the Government about our funding.

“More importantly this income will be lost forever and tonight will be the day we make the council financially unsustainable.”

He also noted funding generated by council tax is key to providing Hartlepool social care services for children and adults.

Cllr Moore said: “The reality is if we do not balance our budget, we won’t be able to provide the services those very people need.”

However, opposition Labour councillors hit out at the move, adding it puts more pressure on the most vulnerable.

Cllr Brenda Harrison, Labour’s group leader, said: “It will send many of those families who are not quite into poverty, into poverty, and will send those in poverty further into poverty, and it will actually in its turn, will crucify our economy.

“There has to be another way, the Government needs to put their promises into action and inject the necessary funds into the council.”

Cllr Amy Prince added: “I can’t in good conscience vote for a proposal which will make the poorest families in my ward and this town even worse off.”

Yet Cllr Moore said he didn’t hear a “single solution” as to how else the funding could be achieved.

Cllr Brown added: “We need to set a budget that is robust at this point, because if we don’t there is a serious risk this council will close.”

The authority faced a cumulative deficit of £11.435 million for 2022-23 to 2024-25, and the increases will reduce the overall deficit to £7.523 million.

Council tax increases of 1.9% for 2023-24 and 2024-25 were also agreed.

In 2021-22 council tax increased on average by 4.4% nationally although Hartlepool enjoyed a freeze after the pandemic.