HOPES that Darlington’s new council administration would see politicians from all parties working together for the benefit of the community have been dashed from the outset, the incoming leader of the authority has claimed.

Just minutes after being voted in as leader of Darlington Borough Council, Councillor Heather Scott branded a concerted Labour bid to prevent her from taking the office as “sour grapes” for losing control of the authority to the Conservatives at elections earlier this month.

Cllr Scott, who has served on the council for 43 years, said she had been hoping to have a constructive relationship not just with the six Independent and Liberal Democrat councillors the Tories had agreed to consult over major decisions.

She said the Labour group, who all voted against Cllr Scott becoming leader with the exception of newly-installed Mayor Councillor Nick Wallis, had broken council protocol by moving to stop her taking the position.

Cllr Scott said: “They obviously can’t accept that they have lost and I think it is absolutely disgraceful. It’s never been done before. We have never moved an amendment against them on a point of principle. 

“I’m hoping we’ve got one Independent and one Liberal Democrat to be chairs of scrutiny, providing the members of scrutiny vote for that, and that’s to introduce opposition so the controlling party doesn’t have chairmanship of all the scrutiny committees.”

She said she would start her term in the role today by attending a meeting over British Steel with the Tees Valley Mayor Ben Houchen after concerns were raised that about 200 jobs in Darlington could be affected.

After his sons and wife, Sandy watched him receive the mayoral chains in a packed council chamber, Cllr Wallis said he had remained passionate about the town ever since he first visited after securing a post-university job at Black and Decker in Spennymoor.

He said following 29 years as a member of the authority he wanted to spend his mayoral year raising funds for Darlington’s food banks and the town’s MS Society.

Cllr Wallis, who is succeeding the town’s 139th mayor, Councillor Veronica Copeland, said: “To be Darlington’s first citizen is one of the proudest moments of my life.”