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Hartlepool Mayor Stuart Drummond axes six cabinet members amid budget mutiny
A NORTH-EAST mayor yesterday sacked all six Labour councillors from the cabinet – after they failed to support their own budget proposals.
That leaves just Hartlepool Mayor Stuart Drummond and independent councillor Cath Hill on Hartlepool Borough Council’s most powerful and influential committee.
He told The Northern Echo he was left with no choice but to axe the six – Labour group leader Jonathan Brash, Pamela Hargreaves, Ged Hall, Chris Simmons, Robbie Payne and Peter Jackson.
The budget had already been approved by cabinet but the six failed to attend when it went before last Thursday’s full council for a final decision.
During that meeting the council’s Labour group forced three amendments, the most important being to overturn the privatisation of the council’s IT services, which Mr Drummond believed would provide major long-term savings.
“They were selected to do specific jobs, the biggest of which is to propose a budget,” he said. “When they didn’t do that, I didn’t have a choice.
“They were all excellent councillors. It’s not personal and it’s not an anti-Labour thing.
“They were in an extremely difficult position. My understanding is they were forced by their party to either vote against the budget or be chucked out of the Labour Party.
“What I care about is having a team of people who will stick together when the chips are down. They made their decision.”
One of the six, Coun Payne, declined to criticise Mr Drummond, adding: “Basically, it’s in the gift of the mayor. He gets paid to make those decisions. To be quite blunt, I’ve had ten years in the job, it’s a good run and I’ve enjoyed every minute.”
Councillors on the cabinet get paid an extra £5,767 a year on top their basic councillor allowance. All Hartlepool councillors will be up for election in May.
Mr Drummond, who revealed that he expects there to be a referendum in the borough on whether the town should continue with a mayor later this year, said the authority would manage without a full cabinet until the election and he would appoint a new cabinet after that.
The Northern Echo made several attempts to contact Coun Brash last night for a comment without success.