CONSERVATIVE councillors who are preparing to take control of a local authority for the first time in 40 years have pledged to hit the ground running.

The Tory group on Darlington Borough Council said talks about the workings of the administration were at an advanced stage, with decisions being made about who will lead key committees ahead of the first full council meeting on May 23.

The sweeping changes at the previously Labour-run council follow the Conservatives winning 22 seats, Labour 20, Liberal Democrats three, Independent three, and Greens two in an election earlier this month.

While only about 33 per cent of the electorate voted, Conservative group leader Councillor Heather Scott, who is expected to be the next council leader, said the electorate had given her group a clear mandate.

She said members of the party had never given up hope of regaining power and although her group would initially foster “a sense of stability”, action was needed.

Cllr Scott said there had been a feelgood factor in Darlington following the elections. She said: “There are exciting times ahead. People feel like they haven’t been listened to and that consultations have paid lip service to issues that people feel really strongly about.”

She said talks with the Liberal Democrat and Independent groups had been “very constructive” and there was a joint determination to “work together for the benefit of the people of Darlington”.

Cllr Scott said: “There are common areas that we want to deal with such as cracking down on antisocial behaviour, littering and fly-tipping.”

She said action to rejuvenate the town centre would be central to the Conservative administration’s plans, and would include a review of town centre parking and building on the success of events, such as the food fair.

Cllr Scott said: “We will be holding meetings very quickly with town centre traders to see what can be done immediately.”