POLITICIANS and public servants across the North East have paid tribute to the leader of Darlington Borough Council following her decision to stand down.

Cllr Heather Scott will use Thursday's meeting of Darlington Council to announce she will be standing down after three years in the role.

Read more: Darlington Council leader Heather Scott to stand down after three years

The 82-year-old, who became the first female leader of Darlington Council in its 152 year history,  became council leader in 2019 after her Conservative group became the largest party in that summer's elections, bringing to an end 40 years of Labour council control.

Speaking to The Northern Echo, Cllr Scott, who was elected as a councillor in 1976 and has been the Tory group leader for almost 15 years, said it is the 'right time to hand over'.

Read more: Darlington Council leader Heather Scott explains why she is standing down

The Northern Echo: Ben HouchenBen Houchen

Paying tribute to Cllr Scott in a letter to the outgoing leader, Tees Valley Mayor Ben Houchen said: "During the time that we have worked together, it is obvious to me that your service to the borough is widely appreciated both by residents and colleagues and your valued contribution, always in the interest of Darlington, is a lasting legacy to your commitment to Darlington.

"During your long tenure as Leader of the local Conservative group you have effectively steered the group through the years of being in opposition and, notably to an outstanding election result culminating in taking control of Darlington Borough Council in 2019.

"Your council leadership has been marked by some incredible challenges and achievements, including guiding the council and borough as a whole through the Covid pandemic, a not insignificant achievement so soon after taking control and the announcement of the Treasury Campus to be located within the town.

"During my time working with you I have appreciated your support not only to me in my role, but also across a much wider span of activities across the Tees Valley, which have had and will continue to have a significant impact on both the Council and Darlington Conservatives now and in the future.

"I have admired your continued enthusiasm and positive contribution to our region, and I wish you well in your continuing role as a much-valued councillor within Darlington and as an integral part of the Conservative Group heading into the next local elections in 2023.

"Heather, thank you for serving our Darlington area and community with such commitment and passion, your achievements are notable, and I extend my sincere thanks for your much valued support and contribution to our continued revitalisation of the Tees Valley which continues to provide a tangible positive difference to the economic growth and job creation for our area and achieving better outcomes for our residents."

The Northern Echo: Petr GibsonPetr Gibson

Darlington MP Peter Gibson said: "Heather Scott has worked tirelessly for the community she represents, and for Darlington as a whole, for over forty years. Her long time on the council and her fifteen years at the helm of the Conservative team has served her well to lead the council after 28 years of Labours stranglehold and to help navigate the difficulties of Covid 19.

"Like other great Conservative female leaders she has truly been our very own Iron Lady. On behalf of the whole community of Darlington that I represent I thank her for her service, her determination, and her commitment to the fight. I look forward to continuing to work with her, and all those hardworking councillors of Darlington that make our town great."

Her deputy, Cllr Jonathan Dulston, looks favourite to succeed her at next week’s election.

Mr Gibson added: "I wish Jonathan Dulston well in the months and hopefully years ahead at the helm, much has been achieved in the three short years that we have taken the lead at Darlington but there is more, much much more we need to achieve for us to the best that we can be."

Cllr Dulston himself described Cllr Scott as a "truly remarkable leader" who has done a "fantastic job and will continue to play her part" for Darlington council.

The Northern Echo: Kevin NicholsonKevin Nicholson

Cllr Kevin Nicholson described Cllr Scott as an "inspiring public servant".

He added: "The first female Leader who I know is certainly not a quitter, but rather has lead the way, and built the foundations for a stronger and better Darlington."

The Northern Echo: Joy AllenJoy Allen

Joy Allen, Police and Crime Commissioner for Durham and Darlington, said: "Really enjoyed working with Heather. She has served the residents of Darlington well for many years.

"She always stands up for what she passionately believes in and has I am sure inspired many more women to enter politics and public service."

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