Residents WON’T have chance to vote on whether Hartlepool should be part of larger authority

Hartlepool Civic Centre.
Hartlepool Civic Centre.
  • Councillors vote against referendum on Tees Valley plans
  • Coun David Riddle says ‘democracy died’ during meeting
  • Council leader says combined authority would have ‘astronomical’ benefits

A REFERENDUM on whether Hartlepool should be part of a new combined authority will not be held after councillors voted against the proposal.

Councillor David Riddle, backed by Putting Hartlepool First colleagues on Hartlepool Borough Council, put forward a motion to the full council for a town-wide vote on the issue.

Councillor David Riddle.

Councillor David Riddle.

Tees Valley’s five councils, including Hartlepool, want to establish a combined authority to help boost economic growth and jobs creation.

Coun Riddle said a recent consultation exercise did not reflect of the wishes of the 500,000 people it will affect at just 1,900 responses.

But Labour and Conservative councillors said a referendum would cost £70,000 and being part of a combined authority will help Hartlepool gain millions in government funding.

The motion, which was supported by councillors Geoff Lilley, Stephen Gibbon, Keith Dawkins and Kelly Atkinson, was lost by 19 votes to 10.

We need a true measure of what people want

Councillor David Riddle, Putting Hartlepool First

Afterwards Coun Riddle said “democracy died in Hartlepool” at the meeting.

He added: “The council no longer reflects the will of the people. The Labour group need to remember, it’s the people who control the council, not the council who control the people. I think they’ll get a stark reminder of that on May 7.

“There are around 90,000 [people] in Hartlepool and we need to ensure we have a true measure of what they actually want.”

Labour group leader on the council Councillor Christopher Akers-Belcher said: “We have a duty to do our utmost for Hartlepool. To run a referendum that would cost the public purse £70,000 yet the benefits for moving forward are astronomical and the investment working in partnership with a Tees wide authority is huge.”

He added the proposals were at an early stage and would be debated by the council’s Finance and Policy group next month and Full Council later.

Conservative group leader Coun Ray Martin-Wells added: “While I understand that there have been concerns that this would be another Cleveland County this is simply not the case. Hartlepool needs to be part of this new group of councils in order to benefit from extra government funding. We have already received in excess of £13 million and it would be foolhardy not to be part of that in the future.”