Lib Dems lose seat to council leader’s wife as Labour batter opposition to retain control of Durham

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LABOUR retained control of Durham County Council in spectacular style.

Turnout for the council’s first full election as a unitary authority was low at just below 28 per cent.

However, that could not dampen Labour members’ spirits, with some declaring the result a landslide.

Needing 64 seats to retain overall control of the council, the party upped its share from 67 to 94.

Council leader Simon Henig was re-elected in Chester-le-Street West Central, alongside fellow Labour hopeful Linda Marshall.

The pair received 1,171 and 1,126 votes respectively, while the two UK Independence Party Candidates finished third and fourth, ahead of two Conservatives, who both failed to reach 150 votes.

Meanwhile, in Chester-le-Street South, the leader’s wife Katherine was elected for the first time, taking the ward from the Liberal Democrats.

Coun Henig was not the only new member, as Labour sources projected as many as half of their group could be first-time councillors.

Deputy leader Alan Napier also retained his place, he and fellow Labour candidate Joyce Maitland easily fending off two UKIP challengers.

Coun Napier, from Murton, could not hide his delight with his party’s display.

“It has been tremendous for us,” he told the Echo. “This election has been fought on local issues, and I’m glad about that.”

Referring to the Lib Dems, he said there is always some impact due to national policies, but he said that should not take away from Labour’s achievement.

“But, you will get this when people make promises in opposition and then don’t carry them out,” he added.

The deputy leader also said voters had recognised UKIP for what they are.

“You have Nigel Farage, who comes over as affable, but a lot of these people come from the industrial heart lands and they’re aware he’s an ardant Thatcherite,” he said.

In Shotton and South Hetton, Labour’s Eunice Huntington won with 893 votes, with party colleague Robin Todd also elected with 871.

Independent Ivan Cochrane was only 185 votes behind in third place.

There was some joy for the Liberal Democrats, as both Richard Ormerod and David Freeman were elected in Elvet and Gilesgate. They also held on to all three seats in Framwellgate and Newton Hall.

Chester-le-Street North and East was split into two separate wards, and was also taken by Labour, having previously been held by the Conservatives.

Other new Labour councillors in the county included Angela Surtees in Easington, June Clark in Horden and Henry Bennet in Peterlee East.

Three first-time Labour Co-operative councillors ousted Lib Dem Eric Mavin in Belmont. Patrick Conway, Katie Corrigan and Bill Moir fended off nine competitors to take complete control of the ward.