'Scurrilous' social media rumours slammed at close of investigation into transparency at Hartlepool Borough Council
Council chiefs have praised the authority’s transparency – and spoken out against social media rumours – after an investigation closed into funding to organisations with links to elected members.
A working group had initially been set up to investigate funding to any organisation which elected members are affiliated with, after a motion from Labour councillors.
A final report presented back to Hartlepool Borough Council Audit and Governance stated the review found the funding to organisations with links to councillors showed no irregularities.
The conclusions were backed by a Full Hartlepool Borough Council meeting on Thursday night, passing by 25 votes to six.
Coun Ged Hall, who was on the working group and chairs the Audit and Governance Committee, said the council publishes more information than most others and ‘punches above its weight’
H said: “Stuart Drummond, then executive mayor said 10 years ago that Hartlepool Borough Council punches above its weight in local government circles, it’s exactly the same scenario now.
“We have excellent officers in Hartlepool and my final comments about Chris Little, Joan Stevens and Hayley Martin [senior council officers] and their teams, provide assurances to members, and above all residents of Hartlepool, that we are transparent and publish information more often in the public domain than other councils.
“We are a good town and a good council.”
Thanks were given from Coun Hall, and Coun Shane Moore, council leader, to senior council officers and the independent working group chair, Clare Wilson, for work carrying out the investigation.
Coun Hall also hit out at ‘scurrilous accusations’ on social media which are made against councillors without any proof.
He said: “Five months ago a number of people approached me about their concerns about the council and several members of the council.
“I said that we need evidence to launch any enquiry. Nobody has provided evidence to me and the officers in the council, and yet scurrilous allegations to members are rife on social media.”
The motion also included nine recommendations to further strengthen existing measures and ‘help improve public perceptions’.
These include receiving further detailed financial statements from other organisations and new member declaration of interest forms.
New mandatory training is also to come in for councillors on what is expected of them, and an item is to go before the council constitution committee to look at sanctions for anyone who misses the training.
The working group also had been looking into previous funding paid to the chair and vice chair of the council, but that report has been deferred for a further legal opinion.