TENSIONS ran high as Labour narrowly maintained its majority at Durham County Council despite losing key cabinet members.

In an election which saw more than 30,000 votes cast, the party saw its seats plummet from 94 to 74 including several in heartland areas.

The first shocks of the day came as cabinet members, Maria Plews, for leisure and learning; Eddie Tomlinson who was responsible for assets, housing and rural issues and Neil Foster, member for regeneration, tourism, and the arts all lost their seats.

As long-standing Labour councillor for Tudhoe, Mr Foster was often the face of controversial changes, like the closure of the DLI museum.

He, and fellow Tudhoe councillor and Labour member Barbara Graham both lost their seats to Alan Gardner and Neil Grayson, from the Spennymoor Independents People Before Politics party.

The result for the Spennymoor ward also saw Geoff Darkes and Liz Maddison knocking Labour members Ian Geldard and Pat Lawton out of the council and joining existing Spennymoor Independents People Before Politics party councillor Kevin Thompson on the council.

Speaking after the announcement, Councillors Maddison and Darkes said the result was a “landslide” victory.

Cllr Maddison said: “People before politics is what we believe in and what we campaigned for.”

Cllr Darkes added: “So many people have said they are sick of politics and want a change.

“We do not intend to forget the people who elected us and we want the best for our town not the best political policy.”

The Conservatives meanwhile had cause to celebrate after party members secured three seats in Tony Blair’s former constituency of Sedgefield, a traditional Labour heartland.

Paul Howell and Scott Durham were both elected to serve Aycliffe North and Middridge, while David Brown secured the Sedgefield seat.

Tory candidate Stephen Hugill also knocked Labour’s Andy Turner off his seat in the Evenwood ward.

Charles Johnson, chairman of South Durham Conservatives, said: “We are still trying to catch our breath. It’s quite a momentous occasion for the Conservatives to break into Durham.

“This reflects the fact we put forward excellent candidates who have worked extremely hard and are very committed.

“The results in Durham seem to indicate the Labour vote dropping significantly in some areas in favour of independents and the Conservatives.”

Meanwhile, the Liberal Democrats enjoyed some success in the election and took both seats in the Neville’s Cross ward.

New councillors, Elizabeth Brown and Elizabeth Scott, who have known each other for 25 years, said they were looking forward to working together.

There were also loud cheers as the three Liberal Democrat candidates for the Framwellgate and Newton Hall ward, Amanda Hopgood, Mark Wilkes and Mamie Simmons held onto their seats with a massive majority.

However, the election was a washout for The Green Party and Ukip who failed to secure any seats.

Following the result, council leader, Councillor Simon Henig, said he was “very pleased” the party had maintained its majority but would listen to voters and take the party forward.

He said: “I would like to say we have lost some very hard working council colleagues.

“It’s incumbent on us to listen to what the electorate have said and we will do that to take it forward so County Durham is the best place it can be.”

He added: “It’s been very challenging and over the next few years it will continue to be challenging as long as there is austerity but it’s important we take on board what we have been told and move forward.”