A HUNG council could be on the cards at Durham County Council.

Labour’s century-long hold on the authority looked vulnerable after the first day of counting, as they won 35 of the 80 seats declared yesterday.

Counting will conclude today but Labour would have to have a phenomenal set of results to secure the 64 needed to stay in overall control, though no other party is in a position to take a majority.

Liberal Democrat Councillor Amanda Hopgood, group leader of the main opposition, who kept her seat in Framwellgate and Newton Hall, said: “We are really grateful that people are giving us their confidence again and there was a strong turnout in many areas, which is a very good thing for democracy.

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“We will see how the balance works out but we are seeing an awful lot of change, what I want to see is a really strong opposition and for everybody to work for their residents. That is what we want to continue to do.”

Durham County Council leader Simon Henig retained his seat in Chester-le-Street West Central.

He said: “I’m pleased to have been re-elected it’s a great honour to serve the residents of Chester-le-Street West Central and Pelton Fell and also the residents of County Durham.

“Clearly the overall result is too early to tell. Labour have made gains but also losses. There has clearly been a shift to the Conservatives across many parts of the country.”

Among the losses for Labour was Cllr Henig’s former co-councillor, party stalwart Linda Marshall who lost her seat after 13 years, to independent candidate Karen Anne Fantarrow Darby.

She said: “I am absolutely devastated. I have given my life over the past few years to Central West and Pelton Fell. It is time to re-evaluate and what is lovely is I can spend more time with my husband who has Parkinson’s and just got his 50 year long service award The Labour Party. He has also just finished today as well with Stanley Town Council.”

There was a bruising defeat for former MP Helen Goodman in West Auckland, who wanted to be back in the political arena in the heart of her old Bishop Auckland constituency, but came fourth in the division which has two seats.

Labour’s Rob Yorke also retained his seat and Conservative Mark Roberts took the second from Labour.

And Aycliffe North and Middridge division saw another big Labour casualty with former cabinet member for economic regeneration and climate change champion John Clare failing to retain his seat.

Newly elected Tory councillor David Sutton-Lloyd, well known in the town including for his campaigning to have 17 defibrillators installed in the area, said: “The result reflects what we were finding on the doorstep. People were ready for a change.

“The day to day issues seem to be the most important thing to residents, Covid has reinforced people’s values and the priorities are family, jobs and community and that is what we’ll be looking at.”

Labour did make some gains, and City of Durham MP Mary Foy was particularly pleased to see some new faces breaking through.

Ms Foy said: “It is a mixed bag and we don’t know if Labour will still have the majority when the final results are in tomorrow. But what we have gained is some new and young councillors, some really positive hardworking people who remain true to Labour Party values.

“The council have had a difficult time dealing with the pandemic but have been one of the best in the country to get support out to businesses and the vulnerable in communities.

“Despite the cuts they have had of £250m over the last ten years they have done their best. Who knows if Labour will have overall control but we do have to build on some of our successes.”

Newly elected Labour councillor for Deerness Dan Nicholls, 24, said: “I’ve ran a really, really local campaign and the people of the village have supported that. Issues like speeding, little, transport and things for young people are important.

“The county council has had so many cuts in funding from central government over the last decade and that is showing in some villages, we are fighting back against that.”

Following a long, tense recount in the Spennymoor ward the Conservatives picked up a seat with Luke Holmes, who was congratulated by Bishop Auckland MP Dehenna Davison. She said: “We’re going to see big things from this kid, I’m very proud.”

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Mr Holmes said: “The overall feeling was of people across the county saying ‘we are tired of the same thing’. It is time for a change and I’m hoping that is what we will be able to deliver.”