NEWLY elected members of Durham city centre’s first parish council say they will be "singing from the same hymn sheet" after voters returned a narrow Lib Dem majority.

The newly created authority, which will meet for the first time next Thursday, has eight Liberal Democrat councillors, five for Labour, one independent and a Green party member.

There was a 24 per cent turnout in the poll, with a total of 4,063 votes were cast for the 42 candidates, who were standing in three wards across the city.

Councillor David Freeman, who topped the poll in Elvet and Gilesgate, said: “The parish council will hopefully be a new start for Durham. We’ve had a democratic deficit for nine years now so hopefully the parish council will give a voice to the people of Durham and all the challenges we face.

“Knowing all of us who have been elected, I think we are all singing from the same hymn sheet.

“There are a lot of challenges and I think we have to be realistic. It’s not the City of Durham Council – there are limits but we are starting from a blank sheet and we can only move forward and seek to improve the lives of people and the city in which we live.”

The other representatives for Elvet and Gilesgate, which had a 20 per cent turnout, are John Ashby, Victoria Ashfield, Judith Atkinson, Richard Ormerod and Mandy Ross.

Meanwhile in Neville’s Cross, which had the best turnout of the day with more than 31 per cent, the elected candidates are Esther Ashby, Liz Brown, Roger Cornwell, Alan Doig, Jonathan Elmer, Grenville Holland, Carole Reeves, and Elizabeth Scott.

Cllr Reeves said: “I think it will be very interesting working with each other. We all know each other and now we’ve gone from political rivals to working together to help Durham.

“I think we have a lot in common. We all care very much about Durham and that’s the bottom line. This gives us more of a voice and we need that desperately.”

Cllr Elmer, who became the city’s first elected Green party member, said: “The big challenge for the parish council will to steer the development of the County Durham plan into something that resembles the wishes of the city.

"The fact we have a neighbourhood plan gives us the ability to put pressure on the county and say this is what the people of Durham want.”

The new authority’s only independent councillor will be Neville’s Cross resident Roger Cornwell. He said: “The electors seem to have elcted a good team and I hope we can work together.

“Now we can’t be dismissed as people speaking for themselves – we have a democratic mandate. Every candidate has spoken about the need to keep the university in check.”

In Durham South, where just 161 votes were cast – a turnout of 8.63 per cent – the lone representative will be third year Durham University student Saul Cahill.

The PPE student, who will be taking up a sabbatical position at Durham Students’ Union later this year, was the first person to be officially elected to the new council.

He said: “I hope to use that to bridge the gap between residents and students. I think we have a lot in common. I think my role will be make sure the students know what we’re doing and get a better relationship between them and the local residents.”

Chris Turner, the City of Durham Labour party’s campaigns officer, said: “Though students come and go they do make up so much of the parish it’s important they play a part or we will never overcome it.

"We should value their participation.”

The new council is due to meet for the first time next Thursday, at 5pm at the Shakespeare Hall, in North Road.