Leader of Durham County Council's ousted Labour group says party will 'represent our communities harder than ever'

Labour’s ousted leadership in County Durham has predicted the party will regain control of the local authority at the next election.

Friday, 28th May 2021, 5:41 pm
Cllr Carl Marshall, who has taken over leadership of Durham County Council’s Labour group.

The old regime was ousted from power on Wednesday, May 26, for the first time in a century by a ‘joint administration’ of Liberal Democrats, Conservatives and independents.

But the new opposition group is already predicting it could be ready to take back control of Durham County Council the next time voters head to the polls.

“In four years’ time, Labour will be back,” said Cllr Carl Marshall, who has taken over leadership of the council’s Labour group after previous head Simon Henig stepped down in the wake of recent election results.

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“For the Labour Party in County Durham, it’s important all of us roll our sleeves up and continue to represent our communities harder than ever.

“That is going to be our focus for the next four years.”

Following this month’s round of local elections, which saw all 126 county council seats up for grabs, Labour remains the single biggest party, with 53 seats, but fell short of an overall majority.

A net gain of 14 seats saw the Conservatives leapfrog the Liberal Democrats to become the second largest political group in the council chamber.

However, the self-styled ‘joint administration’ sworn in this week is to be headed by Liberal Democrat boss Amanda Hopgood as leader of the council for its first year in charge.

Conservative leader Richard Bell has been installed as deputy leader of the council, with responsibility for finances, in a ruling cabinet which includes three Liberal Democrats, three Conservatives, three independent councillors and one from the North East Party.

Despite wishing the new regime well, Cllr Marshall urged caution over a return to coalition politics.

He said: “We saw what the result of a coalition was last time [in 2010] – austerity and cuts.

“I think from us [Labour], there’s a foundation built where the county council has a platform for creating jobs and investing in our towns and villages.

“[The council has been left] in a very sound financial position, but there will be huge hurdles ahead and I think it’s disappointing we haven’t heard more from the coalition about what they’re going to deliver.”

Cllr Hopgood has promised the new leadership’s list of priorities will be released within the next two months.

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