BILL Dixon is to resign as the leader of Darlington Borough Council, The Northern Echo can reveal.

Cllr Dixon, who has been leader of the council since 2011, will be standing down at the council's next full meeting in July.

He has also confirmed he will be standing down as a councillor before the next council elections in May.

The Northern Echo understands he told some councillors about his decision last night, and all council employees are to be told via a letter today.

In his letter, Cllr Dixon said: "Yesterday evening I advised the Labour Group of my intention to stand down as Leader at the next ordinary meeting of Council on Thursday 19 July.  I wanted you to hear this from me personally.

"By May 2019 I will have served 40 years as a Councillor, 27+ years as either Leader or Deputy Leader. 

"For personal reasons I will not be standing in next year’s elections, but will continue as a member of Council until then. 

"As such I think it appropriate that a new Leader committed to standing for election next year should take over now. 

"Lynne, my wife, retired last June and I’m hoping to spend more time with her. 

"I hope to catch up with as many people as possible either before the 19th or up to May next year, but should our paths not cross, I wish you all the best for the future.

"On a personal level I would like to thank you for the services you provide the people of the Borough, often under extremely difficult circumstances. 

"The last seven years have not been the easiest for local government, but with your help DBC continues to provide first class services across the board, something I am immensely proud to be associated with."

Cllr Dixon, who will also be leaving his role as chair of the Tees Valley Combined Authority transport committee, was originally elected to the council in 1979 to represent the Eastbourne North Ward, which changed to the Eastbourne Ward in 2003.

Darlington MP Jenny Chapman said: “I was sad to hear the news that Bill will soon be standing down as Leader of the Labour Group.

"Bill has been a tremendous and dedicated servant to Darlington, both as a Councillor and latterly, as Leader, and I thank him for his service.

“He has been at the helm of the Council during a period of unprecedented cuts, with a loss of over £40m in central government funding.

"The role has been frequently thankless and often a lonely job and Bill has taken tough choices out of necessity but always with the best interests of Darlington at heart.

“I have been impressed by Bill’s commitment to provide the best services possible for Darlington.

“I wish him all the best for the future and hope he enjoys his new found freedom, after serving 40 years as a Councillor, I imagine it’ll come as quite a shock to the system at first but I’m sure Lynne and Rosie will keep him busy.”

Tees Valley Mayor Ben Houchen said: “It has been a pleasure working with Bill since I was elected last year.

"With four decades of public service behind him, he ought to be commended for his commitment to Darlington and its people.

"Without him and other local authority leaders, we wouldn’t have devolution, an elected Mayor and all the money and local responsibility that comes with it.  

"I’ve always found him to be straight-talking, honest and a genuinely good guy.

"I’m sure everyone associated with the council will all join me in wishing him and his wife Lynne all the very best for the future.”

Paul Wildsmith, managing director of Darlington Borough Council, said: “I’d like to be among the first to thank Bill for his many years of dedicated public service in Darlington as an elected member and as the leader of the council.

"He has always been a passionate advocate for Darlington and while he may be standing down as leader, I have no doubt this will continue in his final few months as a councillor, and beyond that into what we hope will be a long and happy retirement.”

What do you think of Cllr Bill Dixon's time as Darlington Council leader?

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