The projects which make a difference to thousands in Hartlepool

Youngsters having fun at the Mill House Leisure Centre pool - home of the councils free swims scheme.
Youngsters having fun at the Mill House Leisure Centre pool - home of the councils free swims scheme.

Major projects are on the way in Hartlepool - but other less headline-grabbing initiatives are just as important, leading council figures have stressed.

Huge projects are being developed for the Church Street/Church Square area, Seaton Carew and the marina, but some of the most vital initiatives in the town are the ones which have a direct effect on the public.

Hartlepool Council Leader Christopher Akers-Belcher and Chief Executive Gill Alexander.

Picture: TOM BANKS

Hartlepool Council Leader Christopher Akers-Belcher and Chief Executive Gill Alexander. Picture: TOM BANKS

Some of them were highlighted by council leader Coun Christopher Akers-Belcher and chief executive Gill Alexander as they looked back on the successes of 2017.

Coun Akers-Belcher said: “It is all well and good doing everything around this major regeneration but we had had other successes.

“Something that people might think is quite low level is the free swimming and the transport over the summer.”

Free swimming for children under the age of 16 was back for a fifth year in 2017 and, alongside it, thousands of children travelled on free buses which picked up from every school across the town and then drop children back off after their hour-long free swim.

I know we should not be in a state where we have to have these schemes but we are able to run that over the Christmas time to prevent children, young people and families going hungry.

Christopher Akers-Belcher

He said it was “amazing” that the council reached 10,000 was “really important to us.”

Another successful project was the Holiday Hunger scheme, he said.

The project aims to stop children going hungry during the school holidays and it was rolled out again this year after a pilot scheme helped more than 2,000 people in just six weeks the year before.

In its first year, 582 food parcels were given out to 339 homes in town.

Coun Akers-Belcher said: “I know we should not be in a state where we have to have these schemes but we are able to run that over the Christmas time to prevent children, young people and families going hungry.

“That is what matters to some people in the town. It is not all around the great infrastructure across the town, around economic growth, it is about some of the low-level things that we do as well.”

Gill Alexander said: “One of the things we can be proud of, looking back, is that unlike some councils, all of our services are judged as good or excellent by external inspections.

“We know that we have very good services. We also know that we have communities and families in Hartlepool who are living in very challenging circumstances, if not some of the most challenging in the country.

“Everything we do is about getting a balance for the future in the town and growing a more prosperous town but always making sure that we are investing in our communities to make sure that people can enjoy a good standard of living, and also make sure that there isn’t anyone in Hartlepool - our aim is to get to the point where everyone in Hartlepool can benefit from the services that they need to help them live healthy, fulfilling lives.

“That is a huge challenge. I don’t think we should underestimate the scale of it, but there are all sorts of little things which have gone on.

“Sometimes, it is the really small things that can make the biggest difference to people’s lives.”