'Scurrilous' claims to be investigated as Hartlepool Borough Council transparency working group gets under way

A working group set up to review how the council allocates funding is to meet for the first time – with the first meeting looking at claims over special allowances paid to a senior councillor.

Thursday, 29th August 2019, 06:00 am
Updated Friday, 30th August 2019, 09:30 am
Hartlepool Civic Centre

It comes after a full Hartlepool Borough Council meeting called for a working group to be set up to investigate ‘funding to any organisation to which an elected member is affiliated’.

This followed a Labour Party motion which also called for the council to ensure the organisations are audited and findings published, and for the council to state how it validates ‘value for money’ within those companies.

After agreeing the formation earlier in August, the first meeting of the Audit and Governance Working Group is now scheduled to take place on Tuesday at the Civic Centre from 3.30pm.

The meeting will provide an introduction to the investigation, and then focus on ‘the arrangements and procedures for approving and paying a Special Responsibility Allowance and an additional Chair’s Allowance’.

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It comes after calls were made by the Labour Party for an investigation into one of their own representatives Coun Carl Richardson, following what they labelled ‘scurrilous’ allegations made against him on social media.

Allegations had been made the councillor had previously received two special responsibility allowances, when only one is allowed, under the previous ‘mayoral system’ which Hartlepool Borough Council used to be run under.

Socialist Labour Party’s Coun Christopher Akers-Belcher stated at the previous meeting which set up the working group ‘throughout many changes the council made to the constitution it has always remained a member could only receive one special allowance’.

The meeting will also see the timetable for the investigation laid out with the next working group scheduled for 2pm on September 30.

This will look into detail about how, why and which organisations are funded by the local authority, along with how council owned buildings are allocated and financed, ward member budget spending and more.

Further working groups are scheduled for October 2 at 5pm and October 3 at 3pm to continue the consideration of evidence.

Additional meetings will be convened in the week commencing October 7 should they be required.

An extraordinary meeting of the council is then expected to take place in November to consider the working group’s final report.

The first meeting will take place at the Civic Centre on Tuesday from 3.30pm, with the public welcome to attend.