THE North-East voted for "real, positive" change in last week's local elections, Tees Valley Mayor Ben Houchen has claimed, as he vowed to work with the region's new council leaders to deliver "the best for the Tees Valley".

Labour's performance in the elections was described as a "disaster" by party chiefs last week as they lost control of all five Tees Valley councils, with the Conservatives becoming the largest party in Darlington, and independent councillors picking up votes in Middlesbrough, Stockton, Hartlepool and Redcar.

The result will have a significant impact on the decisions made by the board of the Tees Valley Combined Authority, which is made up of Mr Houchen, a Conservative, and all five Tees Valley council leaders, who had all previously represented Labour.

Now, Mr Houchen is expected to work with a Conservative leader in Darlington, Middlesbrough's new independent Mayor Andy Preston and indepedent councillors in Hartlepool and Redcar, with Stockton the only authority expected to be run by Labour as a minority administration.

Speaking to The Northern Echo, Mr Houchen said the election results were "good for democracy" and will be "good for local people", adding a "positive coalition of change" was desperately needed.

"My first political memory was the 1997 election when Labour swept into power, and all the local council areas were Labour, and it has just been same old ever since," he said

"You need competition, it is the same for the Conservatives in the South-East and with the SNP in Scotland – a strong opposition is very important."

"The election results were good for us (Conservatives) compared to the national picture. We bucked the national trend here in the North-East, but it was clear a lot of voters across the country voted against the Conservatives and Labour because of Brexit."

Redcar's former council leader Sue Jeffrey and Hartlepool's leader Christopher Akers-Belcher both resigned following their disastrous election results.

Mr Houchen added: "Let's see what happens, whether it is Heather (Scott) in Darlington, and the election of Andy in Middlesbrough will bring real, positive change . I have worked with five Labour leaders and I want to work with people who will fight for the region and do what is best for the Tees Valley."