‘Time to go’ – former Labour leader joins calls for Hartlepool mayor to resign

Stephen Akers-Belcher the Mayor of Hartlepool .
Stephen Akers-Belcher the Mayor of Hartlepool .
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A FORMER prominent Labour party member has added his voice to calls for the Mayor of Hartlepool to resign following revelations over his day-job sacking.

Steve Wallace served as a Labour Hartlepool councillor for 15 years, but says he has been forced to break silence after the disclosure of the reason behind Councillor Stephen Akers-Belcher’s dismissal by Newcastle City Council.

Steve Wallace.

Steve Wallace.

Mr Wallace, who was also Labour group leader on the council and chairman, spoke out after the Mail revealed that Councillor Stephen Akers-Belcher was dismissed from his job with Newcastle City Council after he was given paid leave to go to a funeral but attended a function in his civic role.

There have also been calls from opposition councillors for Coun Akers-Belcher to resign after he told the Mail he did not attend a tribunal hearing in his claim for unfair dismissal because he was unwell, but it later emerged he took part in a meeting of Hartlepool Borough Council on the same day on March 9.

Coun Akers-Belcher, who is a Labour councillor for Hartlepool’s Manor House ward, maintains he has been the victim of whistle blowing because he raised serious concerns over the protection of vulnerable adults by the Newcastle authority where he was a Team Leader in the Community Mental Health Service.

Newcastle City Council has denied that and said Coun Akers-Belcher’s claims were fully investigated but no action was taken.

He should stand down immediately

Former Labour group leader Steve Wallace

Mr Wallace, 55, who stood down from the council in 2010, said: “Coun Akers-Belcher’s case is tragic because he has shown himself to be, in some respects, a good ward councillor.

“But what is now beyond question is that he is revealed to be unfit to be Mayor.

“Therefore he should stand down immediately.”

Coun Akers-Belcher’s claim for unfair dismissal was struck out by an employment tribunal judge on March 9 after he failed to comply with an earlier order of the court by a given time.

Steve Wallace.

Steve Wallace.

The full hearing scheduled for April 13-22 was cancelled.

Coun Akers-Belcher insisted he has done nothing wrong and said he would not be resigning as a councillor. He is currently coming to the end of his last term in office as Ceremonial Mayor.

He has since declined to comment further except to repeat he had not done anything wrong and said “it is a private matter”.

Disputing that Mr Wallace said: “It is not a private matter because standards in public life (the Nolan Standards) say that one must not only be beyond reproach but that one must be seen to be beyond reproach by the public one serves.”

Mr Wallace added that Coun Akers-Belcher had previously spoken to the media when he made the whistle blowing claims.

Coun Akers-Belcher will now be subject to an investigation into the allegations by the Hartlepool Labour Group at his own request.