A COUNCILLOR – who also is the husband of a Labour council leader – has been suspended from the party after being suspected of leafleting on behalf of a rival candidate.

But Stephen Akers-Belcher said the suspension showed Labour had its priorities wrong – and said he was aware other people had not been suspended from the party despite concerns being raised about homophobia, misogyny and anti-Semitism.

Labour North confirmed it had suspended Cllr Akers-Belcher pending an investigation.

A spokesman said: "We can confirm we have received a number of complaints which are being investigated in line with our procedures."

Rival factions within the Labour Party have been causing problems in Hartlepool for some time.

In November, Mr Akers-Belcher's husband Christopher Akers-Belcher was the subject of a successful no confidence vote by the Hartlepool Constituency Labour Party's grass roots members.

But the leader said the vote had been supported by just 39 of the town's 600 party members, and that his own branch supported him 'unanimously'.

And Stephen Akers Belcher said yesterday: "It seems racism, homophobia, anti-Semitic behaviour and hatred are acceptable within the Labour Party.

"But being accused of delivering a leaflet for a Socialist Labour Party candidate is a step too far.

"I have dedicated 22 years of my life to the Labour party and I am sad to say i felt a sense of relief that I may be thrown out of the party I love.

"I now need to decide if I decide to stay and fight this or walk away and be free from the awful frustration I have felt for well over a year."

He said he had written to Jeremy Corbyn and Tom Watson to challenge them to deal with the 'racist scum' in the party.

"I also expressed my sadness that an accusation of putting a leaflet through a letterbox is much more serious than racism and hatred.

"I have watched my loved ones and friends being treated appallingly and no-one has done anything to help."

He said that he believed the animosity from some people against himself and Christopher was homophobic and claimed a party member said in an open meeting last year that he didn't want 'f***ing p**fs' running the party. He said women were also heckled when they tried to speak.

And he said some councillors had been warned they would be deselected from the party if they supported Christopher.

A spokesman for Labour Party North added that any such complaints about racism or homophobia would be investigated.

However, Mr Akers Belcher said some complaints had been made eight months ago and had not been followed up.