CONSERVATIVES look set to be handed control of Darlington Borough Council for the first time in 40 years as part of a deal which will see Liberal Democrat and Independent members consulted on all controversial issues.

It is understood there has been a consensus among the three groups on the authority that returning to a situation of there being no overall control of the council, as happened from 1987 to 1991, could hinder effective decision-making.

Under the agreement, which will be reviewed on an annual basis, council business will be conducted on a vote by vote basis, with the Independent and Liberal Democrat members remaining opposition councillors, but being asked for their views ahead of key meetings.

The council’s 22 Conservative members met last night to discuss the foundations of formal agreements with the three Liberal Democrat and three Independent councillors on the authority which has been run by the Labour Party for the past 28 years.

It is believed senior Tories have agreed to work towards a range of basic principles, such as having responsibility for alerting the Liberal Democrat and Independent members to upcoming issues, and some rough policies during talks with both groups earlier this week.

Both the Independent and Liberal Democrats have declined to give details of the talks.

However, the groups’ leaders said a number of their aspirations appeared to align with those of the Conservatives, such as ensuring decisions were in the interests of as big a majority of residents as possible.

Independents group leader Kevin Nicholson said he believed that having a number of groups playing a part in decision-making would “stop narrow-minded views and policies” and help deliver the change that residents he canvassed before the election had asked him to pursue.

Cllr Nicholson added he hoped the foundations of the deal would include moves to make the council more transparent, improve communications with residents and more consultations on grass roots issues.

He said in addition, with 24 of the council’s 50 councillors being new to their roles, and the average age of the new councillors being about 35, he expected there to be more fresh-thinking.

Liberal Democrats group leader Anne Marie Curry said her immediate ambitions included further work to clean up the streets by taking action against fly-tippers and deterring speeding motorists.

She said: “We are all singing from the same hymn sheet. It’s how we get there that might be more of a problem.”

Should the deal be approved by Conservative councillors, it will be ratified at the annual meeting of the council on May 23.