A COUNCILLOR is mounting a bid to have her position as leader of a County Durham town council formalised after coming under fire for using a title that "does not officially exist". 

Cllr Rochelle Charlton-Laine who leads the Labour group which has control of Seaham Town Council, was criticised when she announced she had become the council’s youngest leader since its inception.

The leader of the town's opposition Seaham Community Party Barry Taylor said: “Seaham Town Council does not have a leader of the council - it has a has a mayor which is the figurehead.

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“There are two parties on the town council – Labour and the Seaham Community Party. The night in question was the AGM to the town council and there was no vote for Rochelle to be a leader of the town council.”

Mr Taylor, a former Seaham mayor who lost his seat on the council at the last elections, said: “She might very well be the youngest leader of the Labour group in Seaham, but she's not the leader of the council and there was no vote that night to make her leader. It’s simply not true.”

Cllr Charlton-Lainè, 34, a secondary school teacher who has been a councillor for a year, said: “For as long as I can remember, the leader of the majority party on Seaham Town Council has been referred to as the ‘Leader of the Council’.

“I’m at a loss as to why that title is now being questioned by my fellow councillors.

“However, to address any confusion, I have created a working group to help formalise the title across all council documentation and to streamline strategic documents moving forward. Hopefully this will reduce any misunderstanding."

She cited the previous use of the title on Seaham Town Council Facebook posts.

Town clerk Paul Fletcher said: “There are only leaders of say Durham County Council – at that level or tier of local government you have the leader and they have authority and certain powers.

“With town and parish councils, there's no official position of leader of the council.

“You're a leader of the minority party or the majority party, but there is no leader of Seaham Town Council.”

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