LABOUR’S heartland decline spreading into County Durham has left the county council hanging uncertainly.

It is proper that leader Simon Henig has stepped down. He has successfully steered the council through the trauma of becoming a unitary authority and, although it covers a huge geographical area, it has not to lost touch with most of its grassroots. Cllr Henig has also been in charge at a time of deep austerity, where cutting rather than building has been the order of the day, but Durham has clung onto its cultural high spots, like the Lumiere festival and has, by and large, made progress over the last decade.

Cllr Henig’s departure may help the next Labour leader build a coalition. The council is in a mathematically perilous position, with Labour having 53 seats and so 11 short of a majority. There are 27 independents, the Conservatives – the second biggest grouping – are on 24 and the LibDems 17.

All we hear is of people refusing to work with one another, but the people of County Durham, by the manner in which they voted, have given their politicians a clear instruction to come together for the common good.

When areas all around are powering ahead, Durham does not want to allow itself to stagnate because its politicians cannot give it stable leadership.