Well-known Hartlepool councillor Stephen Picton stands down after 'heartbreaking' decision due to debilitating health issues with fibromyalgia

A council by-election is set to be held in Hartlepool after an independent councillor stood down due to “debilitating” health issues.

Stephen Picton, an independent councillor in the Foggy Furze ward since 2021, has confirmed he has made the “heartbreaking” decision to step away from the role due to suffering from fibromyalgia.

The condition causes severe pain all over the body, chronic fatigue, spasms and ‘brain fog’ short-term memory problems.

A notice of election has now been published by the council, including key deadlines and information for voters in the ward, with a by-election set to take place for the vacant Foggy Furze seat on Thursday, September 8.

Councillor Picton is 'heartbroken' to be standing down over health issues.

Mr Picton said: “I’m heartbroken to be standing down, with all the people that voted for me to stand for Foggy Furze, but it was a bit unfair for me to stay as a councillor if I couldn’t do what they voted me in for because of my illness.

“I just want to say good luck to anybody that’s running for Foggy Furze, because it is an absolutely beautiful ward and it deserves the best.”

He noted symptoms of his fibromyalgia mean he can’t take on board the paperwork he has to read, and he has struggled with memory loss, depression and anxiety.

He added: “It changes your life completely.

Picton

“I’d never had all this, because I’ve always been a community minded person, always out there raising money for different things, different people and charities and stuff like that, and now I’m just not the same person.”

He was first diagnosed with the condition in 2021, after suffering for some time with severe pains, which at one point left him in bed for six weeks.

Last year he set up the group Fibro-Connect TS to help put sufferers from across the region in touch with each other to provide support and raise awareness.

Mr Picton, who has raised thousands of pounds for charities in the town over the years, said he will continue his work with the group, who have a support unit at the Arches in Park Road and a closed Facebook page featuring 800 people.

Stephen Picton in the Fibromyalgia community room within The Arches, Park Road Hartlepool Picture by FRANK REID

The community champion said he had previously tried to end his own life due to the “debilitating” impact of the painful condition, which led to him creating the support group.

To find out more about the group, email [email protected]