DARLINGTON Borough Council will be looking for a new leader next week after Cllr Heather Scott's decision to stand down after three years.

Cllr Scott 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.

Read more: Tributes to Darlington Council leader Heather Scott as she stands down

The 82-year-old, who became the first female leader of Darlington Council in its 152 year history, announced her decision during a full meeting of the local authority on Thursday evening.

She was elected as a councillor in 1976 and has been the Tory group leader for almost 15 years.

The Northern Echo:

During last night’s meeting, Cllr Scott said it a “was very emotional evening for me”.

She added: “When I became leader of Darlington Borough Council in 2019, it was one of the best moments in my political life.

“And to be the first woman in that position was the icing on the cake.

“I’m not a quitter, I’ve never been a quitter and I’m certainly not starting now.

 “I would not have had this opportunity without being elected to the Park West ward, and I assure them that I will represent them as always as a first priority.”

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

The resignation of the leader of the council is listed as an item on the agenda for next Thursday's Darlington Borough Council annual meeting, followed by the election of a new leader.

Cllr Scott faced a brief leadership challenge last year when Conservative councillors agreed Cllr Rachel Mills should take over as group leader, before the decision was reversed months later.

But it is her deputy, Cllr Jonathan Dulston, who looks favourite to succeed her at next week’s election.

Cllr Dulston was first elected to serve the ward of Eastbourne on Darlington Borough Council in May 2019.

In addition to this he was appointed cabinet member for community safety until a cabinet review of portfolios in November 2019.

Since then, he has held the portfolio as cabinet member for stronger communities. 

In September 2020 Jonathan was appointed deputy leader of the Conservative group of councillors and in term holds the post of Deputy Leader of the Council.

Read more: Heather Scott: The Darlington leader who was one of the great political survivors

His profile on the South Durham Conservative website says: "Jonathan is passionate about communities and pushing forward the levelling up agenda locally to ensure every community has the best opportunities to succeed and become stronger.

"He is currently leading a number of policies and initiatives which include, community safety, food inequality and third sector infrastructure development.

"In his spare time, he is trying to become more active and during lockdown has taken up walking and challenging himself to do 15,000 steps a day."

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.

Darlington MP Peter Gibson said: "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."

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