Embattled Hartlepool Labour leader responds to calls to stand down

Councillor Christopher Akers-Belcher at this year's Hartlepool remembrance event.
Councillor Christopher Akers-Belcher at this year's Hartlepool remembrance event.

The leader of Hartlepool Borough Council says he has received many messages of support to remain in post despite losing a vote of no confidence from his own party chiefs.

A motion expressing the Constituency Labour Party’s (CLP) lack of confidence in Councillor Christopher Akers-Belcher as the party’s leader on the council was passed at a meeting of its decision-making body on Friday night.

It detailed a series of grievances of Coun Akers-Belcher’s leadership, which the CLP believes is harming support for Labour among voters, and calls on him to resign.

As leader of the largest political party on Hartlepool Borough Council with 18 Labour councillors, Coun Akers-Belcher is also leader of the authority.

In spite of the vote, he says he has the unanimous support of his own Foggy Furze branch of the party and has received many messages of support from residents.

He is elected to Foggy Furze ward until 2020.

Coun Akers-Belcher said he is still waiting to be officially notified by the CLP of the result of Friday night’s vote.

He added: “However some feedback I have received is that it was not a unanimous decision as it was a mere 39 members out of a town membership of 600.

“I must stress my own branch have given me their unanimous support at our last meeting as they recognise that I received the highest Labour vote in the town when re-elected in 2016.

“Furthermore I would like to thank the many residents across the whole of the town who have contacted me, insisting I remain asleader of one of the top performing councils in the country.”

Ahead of the vote, Coun Akers-Belcher said he would not let the situation distract him from continuing to achieve the priorities agreed by Full Council for improving the town.

On Saturday, the Hartlepool CLP released a statement saying its General Committee gave its ‘unequivocal backing’ to the no confidence motion.

The committee is made up of party officers, and delegates elected from branch parties, local branches of affiliated trade unions, affiliated socialist societies, and local branch of the Co-operative Party.

The party’s statement said: “Over recent months the CLP has done all it can to enact change and ensure new, strong leadership alongside a wave of new candidates to help protect and rebuild Hartlepool in this time of Conservative-led austerity.

“The passing of this motion makes the views of Hartlepool CLP formal and clear, it is now down to our Labour Party councillors to exact the will of the membership and what we believe to be the will of Hartlepool’s residents.”