THE new leader of Darlington Borough Council has set out his vision for the town, saying it will be a "journey of transformation."

Councillor Jonathon Dulston has taken over as council leader from Cllr Heather Scott, who was hailed as Darlington's own "Iron Lady" as she stood down from the post.

He said it was a "huge honour" and an "incredible opportunity" to take the reins, looking forward to transformation for the town and "Darlington's Olympic moment" in 2025, while acknowledging tough times with cost of living rises.

He told the council's annual meeting on Thursday (May 19): "The council itself cannot stand still and we will work within our means to deliver a huge and truly transformational programme of capital projects.

"As we accelerate our journey of transformation, my aim is to build on the already fantastic work delivered by council.

The Northern Echo: Cllr Jonathan Dulston. Picture: Sarah Caldecott.Cllr Jonathan Dulston. Picture: Sarah Caldecott. (Image: SARAH CALDECOTT)

"Darlington's economic growth remains the council's top priority. We'll continue to create a range of diverse opportunities for residents and businesses, enabling them to succeed.

"We have an exciting future ahead of us here in Darlington. We're undergoing a real transformational change."

Read more: Recap - Darlington Council elect Jonathan Dulston as new leader

He spoke of the £22.3m investment in the town centre from the Government's Towns Fund, saying: "More and more people want to live in Darlington and make the most of everything we have to offer."

Read more: Darlington Council - 'Incredible' Heather Scott praised

He said there would be more investment, major buildings and improvements, and the Darlington Economic Campus would be a "fantastic boost", basing more than 1,500 civil servants from seven Whitehall departments in the town by 2026.

He stressed the need to protect and support the most vulnerable "in a fair, compassionate and practical way".

"I recognise that we live in challenging times," he added.

"What matters most is how we come together to meet those challenges head-on, both as a council and as a community.

"We must also not lose sight of the longer-term challenges faced by our communities, such as the impacts of deprivation, hardship and people's health and wellbeing.

"This council's priority continues to be to identify those people barely surviving, just getting by, the people often not known to us or any of our support services."

Read more: 'Disneyworld' Darlington railway heritage attraction progresses

He said they would cherish history and bring it to life with the Rail Heritage Quarter project, which will open in 2024 with a "Disneyland-style attraction", leading to the 2025 bi-centenary railway celebrations.

"This is Darlington's Olympic moment," he said.

The Conservative councillor was elected to Eastbourne ward in May 2019 and has served as cabinet member for community safety and stronger communities.

The Northern Echo: Cllr Heather Scott. Picture: Sarah Caldecott.Cllr Heather Scott. Picture: Sarah Caldecott.

Cllr Scott paid tribute to his enthusiasm and dedication, saying: "He will be an excellent leader of the council and he will have my full support.

"He will make sure that we get the best deal for the residents of Darlington for the future."

Fellow Eastbourne member, Independent Cllr Kevin Nicholson, said he "couldn't be prouder", having known the new leader since childhood.

He said: "Born and raised on a council estate, I know that this lad has the best interests of the people of Darlington at heart.

"Often behind the scenes, he was and remains the one coordinating and facilitating the many projects that support the most vulnerable people in our community.

The Northern Echo: Cllr Kevin Nicholson. Picture: Northern Echo.Cllr Kevin Nicholson. Picture: Northern Echo.

"Jonathan is the best person to lead this council... one of the kindest, strongest and most loyal people I've ever known."

The council also elected a new town mayor for the coming year, Cllr Anne-Marie Curry, with Cllr Jan Cossins as deputy mayor.

The Northern Echo: Cllr Anne-Marie Curry. Picture: Northern Echo.Cllr Anne-Marie Curry. Picture: Northern Echo. (Image: LDR)

Cllr Curry said: "I'm very humbled and honoured to be given this role as mayor.

"We are well placed as a borough and we all share an ambition for the town to prosper."


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