A NEWLY-ELECTED Labour councillor has been forced to quit after just 10 days when it emerged she was ineligible to stand for office.

Leanne Kennedy, who was voted in for the Dawdon ward of Durham County Council on May 4, was told she is prohibited from standing for office because she is employed at a council-run school.

Her resignation has prompted the prospect of a by-election. But the Seaham Community Party, which came a close second has demanded they automatically take the vacant seat.

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Ms Kennedy of Seaham, said in a statement: “When standing for election, due to an error, I was wrongly advised that as my role was not politically restricted I could maintain my employment. “However, members of council staff are not allowed to hold elected office for the council which employs them.

“I was elected to Durham County Council in the recent elections but am an employee of the local authority.

“This was an innocent mistake and I have now resigned my seat. I regret the inconvenience this will cause.”

Ms Kennedy was elected with 812 votes, along with fellow Labour member Kevin Shaw, who got 886 votes.

Coming behind Ms Kennedy was Bobby Arthur of the Seaham Community Party with 710 votes.

Seaham Community Party leader Barry Taylor said it would be unfair to have to run another by-election.

He said: “I don’t think the tax payer should have to foot the bill for it.

“It should automatically go to the candidate who got the next number of votes and that is Bobby Arthur.

“As far as we are concerned he was cheated out of his seat.”

Clare Pattinson, interim head of legal and democratic services at the county council said: “We can confirm that Leanne Kennedy has resigned as a councillor for Dawdon on the basis that because she is employed in a council-run school as a year manager, she is prohibited from serving as a local member here.

“We understand this situation is the result of an honest mistake.

“In response to this resignation we will now advertise the vacancy in the usual way which will probably lead to a by-election.”