LABOUR have won back another seat on Durham County Council after taking 56 per cent of the vote in a by-election.

George Smith is the new county councillor for West Auckland. The by-election follows the death of Conservative councillor Mark Idwal-Roberts in January. 

Cllr Smith, who is the chairman of West Auckland Parish Council, took 56.3 per cent of the vote – up 12.2 from the last election in 2021.

Conservative candidate Lyndsey Fox was second with 32.6 per cent, down 10.2, while independent Nick Brown took 11 per cent of the vote.

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Cllr Smith said his priorities were campaigning for a bypass for West Auckland and tackling complaints about antisocial behaviour.


He said: “I’ve been a serving parish councillor and I just wanted to take it a step further and take the fight to the county level. There are one or two issues to fight on.

“The main one is the bypass with the levelling up fund. I call it the un-levelling up fund.

“Don’t get me wrong – I want Toft Hill to get its bypass as well. That’s one part of the jigsaw. We just want a fair crack at the whip.”

He added: “I haven’t promised the world but I have promised people I will fight on their behalf.”

There have been calls for a bypass for West Auckland for a number of years and there was anger last year when plans were progressed for bypass at Toft Hill.

The parish council was involved in a petition, which was signed by 800 people and given to Bishop Auckland MP Dehenna Davison last year, calling for a public consultation to decide the best route for a bypass that would also serve the villages of Toft Hill, Spring Gardens and West Auckland.

The by-election was held following the death of Conservative councillor Mark Idwal-Roberts, who had been elected in May 2021.

He died in January, when friends and colleagues paid tribute to him as a “committed” and “talented” councillor.

The win in West Auckland is the second gain made by Labour in County Durham this year following the election of Curtis Bihari, 25, in Ferryhill in February.

Read more: Does by-election victory signal the start of a Labour fightback?

It means Labour has 53 seats on Durham County Council, increasing its position as the largest party.

Cllr Smith added: “Councillors have to get out and talk to people. People have been coming back to me on issues like antisocial behaviour. We need to get out more and speak to people. That’s where Labour has been going wrong.

“That’s the key – a local party for local people and not so much about the big stuff. We need to stop chucking national politics down people’s throats. That’s the only way we’re going to win. We’ve got to talk to people. I think people are starting to realise that. People from all over the county have been helping me and its been brilliant camaraderie.”

Sam Rushworth, chair of Bishop Auckland Constituency Labour Party, said Labour had 'changed for the better' since the last election.

He said: "I think Labour has changed for the better, while the Conservatives have changed for the worst. 

"We got the message at the 2019 election, and the voters were right. 

"We've been working hard to sincerely listen and fight for people on the issues that matter to them, and I think people can see that.

"People can also see that levelling up was a giant con. For ten years the Tory government took away funding from County Durham and gave it to richer Tory boroughs in the South. Then, at the last election they promised us levelling up money. But the Tory MP, and the leader of the Tory group at Durham County Council stitched it up between them, without consulting the public, so he gets his bridge in Whorlton Village, she gets half a by-pass, while people in areas like St Helens, West Auckland, Woodhouse Close, or Cockfield get nothing at all."

Full result

West Auckland (Durham) council by-election result: LAB: 56.3% (+12.2) CON: 32.6% (-10.2) IND: 11.0% (+11.0) No other Ind (-13.0) as prev. Votes cast: 1,697 Labour GAIN from Conservative.

Votes cast: 1,697

George Smith (Labour) -956

Lyndsey Fox (Con) - 554

Nick Brown (Ind) - 187


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