A MAYOR accused of bringing his town into disrepute has seen off an attempt to suspend him.

Councillor Stephen Akers-Belcher was the subject of an extraordinary meeting of Hartlepool Borough Council this evening (Monday, October 13), called as an attempt to suspend him for "causing reputational damage to the council".

But the ceremonial mayor, who has been sacked from his job as a care home manager by Newcastle City Council, won the vote by 19 votes to 11 and will remain in post.

Five councillors signed a motion for Cllr Akers-Belcher to be suspended following the public dispute between the mayor and Newcastle council.

Cllr Akers-Belcher, the civil partner of the Hartlepool Borough Council leader Christopher Akers-Belcher, claims he was sacked from his job on July 24 for whistleblowing.

However, Newcastle council say he was sacked for gross misconduct - although details have not been given.

Following the row, which has received national media attention, five Hartlepool council members - Cllrs Jonathan Brash, Paul Thompson, Geoff Lilley, David Riddle and Keith Dawkins - signed a motion.

It read: "This council believes the dismissal for gross misconduct of the mayor by Newcastle Council, in conjunction with his stated aim of legal action against that council, has undermined confidence in him as the first citizen of the town and that this ongoing and very public situation is causing significant reputational damage to the council, as well as undermining our relationship with a key strategic regional partner."

But in a statement read out on behalf of Cllr Akers-Belcher, after he and the council leader had left the meeting, the mayor refused to stand down.

The statement said: "I have given tonight's council meeting a great deal of thought and remain of the view that the topic to be discussed tonight is a private matter and each and every person has the right to a life outside politics.

"I am of the firm belief that the reputational damage being imposed on our council has been orchestrated by the signatories to tonight's request for an extraordinary meeting of the council - and certainly not by me - and for that reason I shall not be standing down from the civic office I hold."

More than 100 members of the public attended what was at times a bad tempered meeting.

Cllr Riddle said: "The Mayor of Hartlepool used to be a position held in high regard. They used to build statues and name parks after our mayors, like Ralph Ward Jackson.

"He used his wealth to enhance the council. It seems to me that's gone full circle - there are those now who use the council to enhance their wealth.

"I can tell you now there'll be no statue of Stephen Akers-Belcher built - not that we can afford the granite."

Members of the Labour benches defended the mayor. Cllr Carl Richardson said the whole motion was flawed and what went on between the mayor's employer and him was of no concern to the council, especially as it had been established that it hadn't affected the relationship with Newcastle council.