THE leader of a council which recently became Conservative controlled for the first time in 40 years has claimed the election of seven new Tory MPs in the North-East will prove a game-changer for the region.

Darlington Borough Council leader Councillor Heather Scott said there was a determination following last week’s general election that the weight of the Conservative parliamentary seats in the region would see it represented better in parliament than when Prime Minister Tony Blair and Health Secretary Alan Milburn did so.

Cllr Scott was speaking after unprecedented voting for the party in the region saw victories including solicitor Peter Gibson becoming Darlington’s first Conservative MP in 30 years, former accountant Paul Howell becoming the first Conservative MP for the Sedgefield constituency since 1931.

She said after meeting Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Saturday she believed his family ties to Darlington borough would also help to ensure it was no longer forgotten.

Mr Johnson told new Tory MPs and local activists: “I want the people of the North-East to know that we in the Conservative party, and I, will repay your trust. Everything I do as your prime minister will be devoted to repaying that trust.”

Cllr Scott said the benefits of the seven North-East constituencies changing hands would be felt further afield.

She said: “It is good for the north of England. The focus is on the region which is something we must keep up now that we are on the map.”

She said the authority had up to six months to hold a by-election to replace Councillor Howell, who was elected to the authority as a Hummersknott member in May having also been a Durham County councillor since 2017.

Cllr Scott said while Cllr Howell had played a key role in the council’s cabinet as the leisure and local environment portfolio holder she would take on his responsibilities to maintain stability as the authority finalised next year’s budget and its Local Plan development blueprint.

Speaking after undertaking “serious amounts of induction” in Westminster on Monday, Cllr Howell said he agreed with Cllr Scott that the Conservative MPs’ coverage across the area would give it “a bit more leverage”.

He said: “My objective is to look after all 64,000 constituents and not just those in the more industrial urban areas. Seven of the rural wards in the constituency are in Darlington borough. I intend to work very closely with Darlington Borough Council.

“So the borough has got not one but two potential routes into government.”