Councillor says he will not stand down and spark by-election after leaving Hartlepool Labour Party to join new Socialist Labour group

Coun Stephen Akers-Belcher has left the Hartlepool Labour Party and joined the Socialist Labour Party.
Coun Stephen Akers-Belcher has left the Hartlepool Labour Party and joined the Socialist Labour Party.

A councillor who resigned from the Hartlepool Labour Party says he will not stand down and spark a by-election.

Councillor Stephen Akers-Belcher, a former ceremonial mayor who represents the Manor House ward, has cut up his membership card and has announced he is joining the Socialist Labour Party.

The Mail reported yesterday how Coun Akers-Belcher said he had given 22 years to Labour but the speed with which he was suspended following an allegation of leafleting for Socialist Labour Party candidate Allan Barclay - who was deselected by the local Labour Party - had helped him decide to quit.

But he said his husband Councillor Christopher Akers-Belcher, who is Labour Group leader on Hartlepool Borough Council, is not quitting the party.

It came as Hartlepool Labour Party called for Coun Stephen Akers-Belcher to stand down from the council and allow a by-election to be called.

But Coun Akers-Belcher said he will not stand down and added: "Having talked to many residents who I have worked with for over 15 years they support me in not triggering a by-election.

"For 15 years I have represented the ward and current and past ward councillors have worked well as a team.

"If I was to serve as an independent then I could understand the calls to stand in a by election.

"I am overwhelmed by the support I have received and will contest my seat in 2020 as a Socialist Labour Party candidate."

Coun Akers-Belcher also said he disagreed with a statement from the Hartlepool CLP claiming he had become a distraction to the work that the Labour Party is doing to improve Hartlepool, including creating cleaner neighbourhoods.

He said: "In June last year I became the chair of neighbourhood services and I have been responsible for securing extra resources to clean up the town."

Hartlepool Borough Council launched a clean-up campaign last year and took on eight new recruits to boost its environmental workforce.

The Mail reported at the time that the new recruits are part of additional resources which the then recently-appointed chairman of the council’s Neighbourhood Services Committee, Coun Stephen Akers-Belcher, had pledged to channel into Hartlepool’s neighbourhoods where residents need them.