Hartlepool council chief wins vote after leadership challenge

Hartlepool Borough Council Leader Councillor Christopher Akers-Belcher
Hartlepool Borough Council Leader Councillor Christopher Akers-Belcher

A senior councillor says he is pleased to be reconfirmed as Labour Group Leader on Hartlepool Borough Council and has called for unity in the party.

Councillor Christopher Akers-Belcher faced a leadership vote by the group’s 18 borough councillors following a vote of no confidence by Hartlepool Constituency Labour Party (CLP) which represents party members in the town.

Councillor Dave Hunter

Councillor Dave Hunter

A vote by secret ballot was held during a meeting of Hartlepool Labour Group on Tuesday night.

Coun Akers-Belcher, who is also Council Leader, won 11 votes and Councillor Dave Hunter who put himself forward as an alternative received six.

Coun Akers-Belcher said: “I am incredibly pleased to be reaffirmed as the Leader of Hartlepool Labour Group and look forward to continuing being part of the remarkable work our council has achieved over the last six years.

“I must emphasise that in Hartlepool we operate a leadership model of shared responsibility that all councillors can be involved with.

The coming months are going to require unity if we are going to deliver on our pledges to the people of Hartlepool

Coun Akers-Belcher

“The coming months are going to require unity if we are going to deliver on our pledges to the people of Hartlepool.

“Despite Hartlepool enduring savage Government cuts to our budget of over £20m a year since 2013, the council is rated nationally good or outstanding across all services.

“In view of the cuts our continued protection of jobs, vulnerable adults and children, increased housing growth and regeneration of the town is something we can be very proud of.

“I would like to put on record my sincere thanks for the overwhelming support I have received from residents, community groups and the business community over recent weeks.”

Prior to the vote, Coun Hunter, who represents Burn Valley ward, said he did not expect to win, but that it would show how other members of the group feel.

He also said he wanted to highlight ways of working differently as a council to boost the economic growth of Hartlepool, advocating adapting Preston’s model of hyper-localism.

The leadership vote came after Hartlepool Constituency Party chiefs passed a motion of no confidence in Coun Akers-Belcher and wrote to their councillors asking them to take action.

The CLP’s motion listed a number of criticisms of Coun Akers-Belcher’s leadership which it said was alienating Labour voters in the town and claimed was responsible for a drop in support for the party.

Coun Akers-Belcher said it was an example of bullying behaviour and would not let it distract him from working to achieve the council’s objectives for improving the town.