Resident reps facing the axe

Christine Blakey
Christine Blakey

PLANS to axe dozens of resident representatives have moved a step closer.

The proposals are part of a radical overhaul by Hartlepool Borough Council which is carrying out a review of the way it engages with the public, voluntary sector and businesses.

Evelyn Leck

Evelyn Leck

The plans include disbanding resident representatives from next April and replacing them with 11 Neighbourhood Voices, which will be based in the town’s new ward boundaries due to come in next year.

Cabinet members met on Monday to back the changes, and the report will now go the council’s scrutiny co-ordinating committee.

The Neighbourhood Voice role would be similar but there would be just one person per ward instead of the current structure of 25 representatives spread across the north, south and central areas.

A major review of ward boundaries is currently being carried out which could see the number of councillors slashed from 47 to 33 representing 11 wards instead of 17.

Resident representatives, who volunteer their time, have slammed the plans.

Christine Blakey, who sits on the North Neighbourhood Consultative Forum, said: “The whole of Hartlepool is going to be in a worse situation because there will be less representation.

“The council has never got the best out of resident representatives.”

Evelyn Leck, a resident representative for the Central Neighbourhood Consultative Forum, said: “The writing is on the wall and it looks like we are going.

“I would prefer there to be more than one Neighbourhood Voice per ward. The new wards are going to be big and two heads are better than one.”

Resident representatives are elected every two years and their role is to represent their ward and liaise with council departments and partner agencies.

The changes are being put forward because less money is available, changes to the law and the Government’s Big Society initiative.

Independent councillor Cath Hill said it was important that people “genuinely interested” in their area came forward.

The way the council engages with the community and stakeholders is planned to be overseen by a new Strategic Partnership Group, headed by Mayor Stuart Drummond.

A council report said it will bring together the key public sector agencies along with representatives from the voluntary and community sector.

It will meet four times a year, but will not be a decision-making body.

The council is also proposing to reduce the number of Neighbourhood Action Plans which work with eight priority neighbourhoods deemed as being in the top 10 per cent nationally for deprivation.

Instead the council will focus only on those in the top five per cent.