THIS is a seismic result in Darlington. For the first time in nearly 30 years, Labour is not in overall control of the council.

The result takes us back to the late 1980s when there was a hung council, and full meetings dragged on into overnight and into the dawn. Certainty was only brought about in 1991 when John Williams led Labour to overall victory.

Cllr Williams was leader of the council until 2010 when he handed over to Cllr Bill Dixon, who stepped down late last year, by which time the difficult decisions of the age of austerity had damaged the council’s popularity.

His departure, coinciding with the retirement of chief executive Ada Burns, was timed to allow a new leadership to prove to the town that it had was a new broom, but Labour has clearly not convinced the electorate that it has a vision for the future of the library or the high street, that it is sure-footed enough to avoid self-inflicted wounds like “treegate”, or that it has the personality to renew the town.

While the Conservative revival in Darlington is against the national trend, where Theresa May’s Tories have been battered, the smaller parties are big enough to count. The three LibDems or three Independents or the first two Greens hold a balance of power between the Conservatives’ 22 seats and Labour’s 20. Will they be kingmaker, or will they allow Conservative leader Heather Scott to lead a minority council just as Tony Richmond did between 1988 and 1991.