Calls have been made for the leader of Hartlepool Borough Council to resign from the local Labour Party.
Bosses at the Hartlepool Constituency Labour Party (CLP) have called for council leader, Labour’s Coun Christopher Akers-Belcher, to resign from his position following the results of the local elections, which they said were a ‘wake-up call’.
The Labour Party left the elections having lost its majority on the council, and with just 13 councillors remaining.
In comparison the party had 18 representatives in March, before three Labour councillors resigned and joined the Socialist Labour Party.
However Coun Akers-Belcher has hit back at the CLP and said its officers should resign, citing ‘infighting’ within the party as the reason for losing its majority.
He said: “From my point of view the election result sends a very clear message out that the Constituency Labour Party, and the associated in-fighting and bullying, it is the responsibility of them for us losing control of the council.
“While I have been leader of the Labour group we have held control of the council, while I have been participating in campaigning.
“Ever since they started the personal attacks on me it is only then when we have lost control of the council and I would call upon the officers of the Constituency Labour Party to resign immediately rather than blaming the council when we are one of the best in the country.
“We are rated good or outstanding across every single discipline and I certainly will not be resigning and full council will decide who the new leader is on the 21st May.”
The response came after the CLP thanked people who voted Labour in the local election, but said the result showed ‘Hartlepool people are demanding change’ and the council leader should resign.
A CLP spokesman said: “We are not complacent, these elections are a wake-up call for Labour, Hartlepool people have had enough and are demanding change.
“The leader of the council, Christopher Akers-Belcher, should accept the people’s will and resign immediately.
“The local Labour Party is united behind its settled policy of having no confidence in the leadership of the council and join with Hartlepool residents in demanding Councillor Akers-Belcher resign.
“Going forward we need new leadership, new policy and a new way of doing things that respects and reflects the wishes of Hartlepool people.
“More broadly the local Party recognises the discontent at the national
handling of Brexit.
“The Party stands united with our local MP, Mike Hill, no second referendum and an orderly exit from the EU as quickly as possible and to respect the wishes of voters.”
It comes after the CLP issued a vote of no confidence against Counc Akers-Belcher in November last year.
Hartlepool Labour also said it remains committed to ‘improving the town for everyone who lives here; fighting for better jobs, cleaner neighbourhoods, safer streets, better healthcare, a stronger and more prosperous town.’
Coun Akers-Belcher also added as the Labour Party no longer holds a majority on the council, the party leader would not necessarily be the council leader, and council leadership decisions would be made at the full council meeting later this month.
He said: “At the end of the day Labour no longer has a majority.
“Whoever is leader of the Labour group will no longer be the leader of the council because the majority lies elsewhere and it’s up to them to pick the leader.
“Either way as it stands at the moment my term of office ends on the 21st May, and that’s constitutional.”
Nic Marko , Local Democracy Reporting Service