A senior councillor has announced he is standing down from the council.
Councillor Ray Martin-Wells is standing down as representative for the Rural West Ward on Hartlepool Borough Council and also Conservative Group Leader on the council at the end of the month.
Coun Martin-Wells is chairman of North East Joint Health Scrutiny Committee and chairman of the Audit and Governance Committee and has been a strong voice for health services for people in the town.
He was a key driver of the council launching legal action in the High Court against North Tees and Hartlepool NHS Foundation Trust over the closure of the Assisted Reproduction Unit at the town’s hospital.
Coun Martin-Wells is also vice chairman of the Better Health Programme Scrutiny Committee and a member of the Planning Committee, Appointments Panel, and the Constitution Committee and Personnel Sub-Committee.
He made the announcement at a meeting of the full council: “Having entered politics at the tender age of 18, and soon to be celebrating my 50th birthday, I’ve amassed almost 32 years in local politics
“My husband Andrew and I are shortly to become grandparents for the first time and that has prompted me to re-evaluate my priorities.
“After much heart-wrenching, I’ve decided to reduce my political life to spend more time with my growing family I will therefore be stepping down as Conservative Group Leader and from the council at the end of this month.”
Coun Martin-Wells went on to thank residents in his ward, fellow ward councillors Brenda Loynes and George Morris and several council officers he has worked alongside.
He added: “Turning to my fellow councillors, whilst we may not always agree in this chamber, looking around the room tonight I think it’s fair to say that everyone has the best interests of Hartlepool in their hearts,
“None more so than my opposite number in the Labour Group Coun Christopher Akers-Belcher.
“Thank you Christopher for supporting me in my role as chair of Audit & Governance through some of the most difficult and controversial issues including successfully holding the NHS to account in the High Court in London.
“It would have been easy for you to play party politics but you’ve always been a true professional and I thank you for that.
“Finally, I’d like to thank my family, my four children who did not get to spend as much time with dad because of the numerous council meetings and never-ending constituency work, but most of all I’d like to thank my husband Andrew, who has been my pillar of strength since 2012.
“It’s been an absolute honour and privilege to serve my home town.”