SIMON Henig has announced he is stepping down as leader of the Labour group in Durham following disastrous local election results which saw the party lose its overall majority on Durham County Council for the first time in a century.

Mr Henig said: "The results of the election in County Durham last week were deeply disappointing for the Labour Party. Unfortunately the outcome was in line with the national and regional picture, and the result of the December 2019 General Election.

“I have had the opportunity to reflect on the situation, and have decided that the time has come for someone else to lead the Labour Group, so I will not be putting my name forward to the Group AGM this weekend.

“I am very proud of the Labour County Council’s record over the past 12 years, with the creation of over 10,000 new jobs prior to coronavirus, including major companies such as Hitachi choosing to locate in County Durham, plans for 30,000 more jobs now being realised, a world-class events programme and visitor numbers increasing year by year. “This is a wonderful county and I believe this legacy is a firm foundation for continued growth across County Durham in the future.

“It is now the time for someone else to lead us through this next phase. I would like to wish the new leadership every success.”

Cllr Rob Yorke, who was re-elected in West Auckland, said: “I’m sorry to see Simon go. We have achieved a lot in the last 12 years, especially when you consider the £247m of cuts we have had to deal with over the last ten years.

"I think Simon can be proud of his achievements.

"He’s worked so diligently and we’ve always presented a balanced budget.

"It is now up to someone else in the Labour Party to pick up the mantle.”

North Durham MP Kevan Jones said: "I respect the decision by Cllr Simon Henig to step down as the Leader of the Labour Group on the County Council following last week’s election results.

"Simon has led the local authority since it became unitary in 2009. He has much to be proud of, having steered the Council through a decade that has seen unprecedented Government cuts to County Durham.

"His record will show the work he has done to protect frontline services and bring investment and jobs into our County.

"Concentration on jobs, prosperity and regeneration have got to the priority for the County Council moving forwards. The Labour Party now needs to work across the political divide with all those that share our ambition for the future of County Durham."