Mike Young, the Conservative Deputy Mayor and Deputy Leader of Hartlepool Borough Council has resigned his posts. He remains a Conservative Party councillor.
His resignation comes hot on the heels of a war of words with Ben Houchen, the mayor of Tees Valley.
Houchen had first accused the council’s minority Labour Group of holding “secret” talks with local charity The Wharton Trust, regarding the possible storing of radioactive waste in a Geological Disposal Facility (GDF) in the Hartlepool area.
While the charity had had a ten minute discussion at a scheduled Labour Group meeting, no decision had been made to support the proposal.
This was the initial contact from the Wharton Trust as an interested party registered with the government’s Radioactive Waste Management (RWM) organisation. Simply by holding a lengthy public consultation the town would have benefited from a government donation of £1 million a year to local community projects regardless of the final decision.
Why only talk to Labour in a Tory-run council?
The Houchen leak raised the question: why would the charity approach only the Labour Group which represents a minority of councillors, in a Tory-run council, with a Tory mayor and MP?
Then Mike Young announced that he had been in discussions with the trust about the proposed GDF for some time. In a statement he claimed he had “personal apprehensions regarding any kind of waste storage site in Hartlepool.”
Young concluded: “I share the views of Ben Houchen Tees Valley Mayor and Jill Mortimer MP for Hartlepool and agree with the concerns they’ve raised.”
Houchen attacks his own side
The Deputy Mayor’s admission sparked another attack by Houchen, this time at Young himself.
Young’s departure from his post comes as no surprise amid rumours circulating of a civil war in the local Conservative Party, which won an unprecedented 13 seats at the local elections in May and controls the council.
As Deputy Mayor, Young was regarded as the heir-apparent to Mayor Brenda Loynes, who is suffering from ill health .
In his resignation statement Young said:
“In recent weeks it has become clear I lack the support of more senior Conservatives in the region”
“The proposal included up to a ten-year consultation process ending in a binding vote made by the people of Hartlepool, who would have had the final say in the outcome.
“As a town, we face losing the nuclear power station along with its jobs and income within a few short years.
“It would have been remiss of me to disregard an opportunity that had the potential of creating hundreds of jobs along with the non-domestic rates that would match that lost from the power station’s closure.
“It is more than apparent that local politics doesn’t afford you the level of decision making that you’d have thought.”