VOTES in the contest to become the next Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) for Durham had to be counted twice before Labour’s Joy Allen could be declared the victor.

Labour looked to have opened a commanding lead over the Conservatives in the contest after first preference ballots had been tallied up.

But shortly after counting of the second preference votes from the defeated Liberal Democrat candidate began, ‘discrepancies’ were found in the first batch, prompting officials to start again from scratch.

It was later revealed this had been caused by votes for the Lib Dems and Conservatives were ‘incorrectly recorded on the final return sheet’.

The do-over saw the Tories gain about 3,400 first preference votes.

Labour also benefited slightly, but party sources were increasingly confident of gaining the lion’s share of second preference votes from the Lib Dems.

And so it proved, with Labour eventually finishing with a combined total of 80,510 votes – more than 3,000 ahead of Conservative challenger George Jabbour on 77,352 – once all voted were combined.

Liberal Democrat candidate Anne-Marie Curry was knocked out after the first round of voting and her first preference ballots were redistributed between the surviving pair.

The result makes Allen Durham’s third PCC since the roll was established, but only the second to be democratically elected.

Labour’s Ron Hogg, a former police officer, was the inaugural holder of the post, winning elections in 2012 and 2016, but died in December 2019 after being diagnosed with motor neurone disease.

Labour's winning PCVC candidate Joy Allen has said she will hit the ground running to ensure police deliver the services that matter most to the public in County Durham and Darlington.

The election was due to be held last year but was postposed due to the coronavirus pandemic, meaning she will service a three year term instead of four.

Mrs Allen said it had not only been a long, rollercoaster of a day but a long two years, with the PCVC elections postponed last year.

She said: "I think it is important for democracy that the right things happen and the staff have done an amazing job despite challenging circumstances.

"It was worth it because it paid off in the end and I'm delighted to be elected as Durham next police and crime commissioner."

The PCC office’s chief executive, former Police Federation boss Steve White, stepped into the breach on a temporary basis until elections, already scheduled for 2020, could be held.

However, the coronavirus pandemic forced polls to be postponed, leaving White to continue on an acting basis for an extra year.

The election saw a rise in turnout to 35.37%, compared to 17.7% in 2016.

Joy Allen will hold the Chief Constable to account for the performance of the police force, effectively making the police answerable to the communities it serves.

Ms Allen will commence office on Thursday 13 May and will serve a three-year term.

Runner-up, Conservative candidate George Jabbour said: "It has been an incredible day - what happened with the recount and how close the result was with the first count then it becoming even closer after the recount.

"I'm incredibly positive about the huge progress that we have made, if I'm not mistaken last time we only had 23 per cent share of the vote and this time it is 43 per cent. 

"It has been a seismic shift in terms of the result inthis police area, nearly doubling our share of the vote.

"This would not have been possible without the incredible work that has been done by Conservative team members, whether they are elected representatives, MPs, campaigners, activists and candidates.

"This is a small part of the national story we have seen since Thursday evening where Conservatives have mad significant gains across the board.

"Calculate the swing and it is something like 18 per cent, you've got to go into the history books for something comparable.

"I'm very proud of the campaign we ran and what we have achieved.

"These are significant results at an important time for the country, it makes me happy and please about its future."