A SERVING councillor has insisted he will be able to represent two wards at once if elected in a neighbouring authority.

Conservative Scott Durham is hoping for success in the upcoming Cockerton by-election, called following the death of Darlington Labour councillor David Regan.

Cllr Durham says he is confident that he can represent residents of the wards on Darlington Borough Council, despite already being elected to Durham County Council.

The councillor, who now serves Aycliffe North and Middridge, said he feels that he can “wear two hats at once” to the benefit of both authorities.

He said: “I can see real benefits in being able to spot that best practice is being applied in both and spot opportunities for efficient working across authorities.

“I feel that I bring something different, being an accountant who hates waste.

“It’s a key part of being a councillor to not only represent residents but to challenge the decisions being made at council HQ, which is something I will do robustly when needed.

“As long as you’re organised and efficient with the use of your time, any workload is manageable – it’s a case of understanding where you best add value and I’ve got a very strong work ethic.”

Cllr Durham said he was inspired to get into politics following the birth of his child and growing frustration with the Labour party.

He believes Cockerton should be a “key focal point for tangible improvement in the town” and has pledged to push for more decision making by local people over improvements to the area.

Darlington’s council leader, Cllr Bill Dixon, said it was legal but extremely uncommon to represent two wards at once.

He expressed concern over how Cllr Durham will adequately represent and be available to help residents from both wards and questioned how he would meet increased council commitments, while also working.

Cllr Dixon said: “This could represent a huge conflict of interest – if there’s a dispute between Darlington and Durham, as occasionally happens, whose side will he be on?

“It will be confusing to say the least and I’m not sure it’s possible to carry out both roles.

“The electorate come to you when they need help and it would be totally unfair to say you could only help them alternate Wednesdays, or something.

“He will also not have any control over when committee meetings and other council meetings will be held so there could also be clashes and conflict there.

“The electorate needs to be aware that he is effectively going to serve two masters.”

Durham Labour councillor John Clare, who represents the same ward as Cllr Durham, said: “The rules are quite clear on this, Cllr Durham is able to stand in both areas.

“As for whether he can do both jobs properly, that is a matter for him and the electorate to decide.”

If elected, Cllr Durham could be eligible to receive almost £20,000 in basic council allowances, with figures for 2017/18 showing Darlington councillors have a basic allowance of £8,026 and Durham County Councillors can take £11,941.