First female leader of Durham County Council appointed as Labour lose control for first time in 100 years

The first female leader of Durham County Council has promised a ‘new era’ as she stepped into the post.

Cllr Amanda Hopgood has been appointed the first female leader of Durham County Council after beating Labour candidate Carl Marshall in a vote.
Cllr Amanda Hopgood has been appointed the first female leader of Durham County Council after beating Labour candidate Carl Marshall in a vote.

Amanda Hopgood, leader of the local authority’s Liberal Democrat group, was propelled into the top job this morning (Wednesday, May 26) by a coalition including Conservatives and a host of smaller parties and independents.

Her appointment also brings the curtain down on more than a century of control by the Labour Party, which lost its majority control of the council chamber in a bruising round of local elections earlier this month (May 6).

“This is a new era for the council,” promised Cllr Hopgood, “not only am I the first non-Labour Leader, but also the first female Leader.

Cllr Amanda Hopgood, the new leader of Durham County Council.

“I will be Leader of the whole of Durham County Council regardless of political affiliations, and I hope that we can all embrace the opportunity to work together as we move forward.

“Everyone who has worked so hard to form the council’s first joint administration recognises the responsibility that is now on our shoulders.

“Collectively, we represent a wider cross-section of the county than any previous administration, and that is a reflection of how the public voted and the change that they demanded.”

Cllr Hopgood was speaking at this morning’s annual meeting of the council, the first time county councillors have met in person, rather than via videolink, for official business in more than a year, due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Conservative leader Richard Bell was appointed deputy leader of the council in a ruling cabinet which includes three Liberal Democrats and three Conservatives, with a further three positions held by independent councillors and one by the North East Party.

Following the vote, held in Spennymoor Leisure Centre, defeated Labour candidate Carl Marshall said the new ‘joint administration’, as it is styling itself, faces questions over:

The future of a planned £85 million overhaul of leisure centres Plans for a controversial business park at Aykley Heads and new council HQ The council’s Towns and Villages Strategy

He added: “Forming official opposition is a first for County Durham Labour.

“We do not underestimate the vital role we play in holding this coalition to account and ensuring democracy is delivered.

“Our hand of friendship – ignored last week as this coalition was created – remains extended.

“Labour’s priority is to ensure this County Council delivers for the people and businesses of Durham.”

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