The race for the Durham County Council seat left vacant by the death of a long-serving councillor was comfortably won by the Labour Party last night.
Wingate, in the east of the county, was left without a representative following the death of Coun Robert ‘Leo’ Taylor, who died in December aged 77 following a short illness.
The by-election contest was won by John Higgins, a member of Wingate Parish Council for more than a decade and its current vice chairman, ensuring the electoral division remains in the hands of the Labour Party.
Speaking after the result, he said: “The first thing in my inbox [as a county councillor] is what the parish council has already investigated, which is problems with road safety, litter and fly-tipping.
“One of my concerns is that at the moment there’s a lot of complaints about doctors’ appointments and the time people have to wait to see a GP.
“The plan to address these things is to speak to the relevant officers and the scrutiny committees to see what’s being discussed with them.”
Mr Higgins, who also briefly served on the former Easington District Council, saw 458 ballots cast in his name out of a total 717.
This accounted for 64 per cent of the vote – a decrease on the 74 per cent who put a cross next to the name of his predecessor Mr Taylor at the last full round of county council elections in 2017.
But despite the drop, Mr Higgins said the result showed the continued backing for the Labour Party, despite current wrangling over Brexit.
He added: “People have committed on Brexit but unfortunately it can seem neither party has an answer for it.
“But tonight’s result proves to me that a lot of people do have faith in the Labour Party.”
The Conservative Party did not field a candidate, despite taking second place in 2017 with about a tenth of the vote in the ward.
Instead, the runners-up position was taken by the Liberal Democrats, who managed 163 votes – a significant increase on the 21 they managed last time out.
Lib Dem candidate Edwin Simpson, who has previously served on Doncaster Council before moving to the North East, said: “We’re the main opposition in County Durham and this has shown it – we’ve jumped from fourth place last time  to second.”
Labour Party – John Robert HIGGINS – 458 votes – 64%
Liberal Democrat – Edwin Herbert SIMPSON – 163 votes – 23%
The North East Party – Stephen Joseph Miles – 74 votes – 10%
The For Britain Movement – Gareth David Anthony FRY – 20 votes – 3%
Rejected ballots – two
Total ballots – 717
James Harrison , Local Democracy Reporting Service