Labour and the Conservatives are hoping to take control of Stockton Council following local elections this week.

Both parties will be hoping to prove themselves with Labour trying to win back the majority control it lost in 2019.

Meanwhile the Tories are hoping to continue a positive trend which saw them win five by-elections in 2021, and take a step towards control of the council.

Read more: Here's the full list of candidates standing in Stockton's Local Elections 2023

Labour is currently the largest party on the council with 24 of the 56 seats up for grabs. The Conservatives are the second largest party, holding 16 seats.

The man hoping to take over from Labour’s Bob Cook as council leader is Conservative Tony Riordan, first elected in 2019.

The Northern Echo: Conservative group leader Tony RiordanConservative group leader Tony Riordan (Image: STOCKTON COUNCIL)

“Our influence has been growing since 2019 and our message is getting stronger within the borough” Mr Riordan told The Echo.

“We’re being told on the doorstep that we’re focussing on the right issues whether that’s dog fouling or anti-social behaviour.

“People should feel safe about coming into our towns where we have enforcement officers on patrol making sure anti-social behaviour’s kept to a minimum, our town centres and our streets are clean and safe, our parks are attractive places where people come to visit.”

Anti-social behaviour has been a key issue in more urban areas of the borough, with both parties putting it at the centre of their pledges.

The Northern Echo: Labour group leader Bob Cook.Labour group leader Bob Cook. (Image: STOCKTON COUNCIL)

Labour’s Bob Cook said: “Anti-social behaviour is going up. We will campaign for more police on the streets and work with our partners to tackle drug and alcohol related crime.

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“We’ve already increased our enforcement team with twelve more wardens to help keep an eye on our town centre.”

On bringing more investment into the town both parties are keen to see Stockton’s prospects improve.

“Investment in the borough is a must,” Mr Cook added, “What we’re trying to do is create a strong local economy to provide the jobs that are badly needed.

“The best way of actually getting people out of poverty is to make sure they’ve got a good, well-paid job, and that’s what we’re trying to do, to ensure that jobs are in the borough.”

Meanwhile Riordan says his Conservative group are about attracting private investment.

“We need to attract private investment and wider government investment into Stockton and not rely on local funding for everything that is an idea or restructure. We need to review and consult with our residents what wider development or redevelopment they need in the town centre,” Riordan says.

He disagrees with how the current Labour-led council has backed plans including the Stockton Globe, saying investments should be reviewed.

Cook responds: “The Globe was a regeneration project,” citing a reported £6m worth of ticket sales and 185,000 tickets. “That was the idea of the Globe, to enhance the night-time economy within Stockton, and that’s not a waste of money. That’s actually benefitting the local economy, retaining jobs in businesses, pubs, and restaurants.”

The Labour manifesto makes a series of pledges – to help those hit hardest by the cost of living crisis, campaign for more police on the street, work to tackle drug and alcohol-related crime and anti-social behaviour, deliver more affordable and social housing, support the campaign for a new North Tees Hospital, work with other Teesside councils for better public transport, and finish planned town centre and high street improvements – to create a “fairer Stockton”.

The Conservatives have pitched their offering as a “cleaner, greener, safer Stockton”, pledging to make the council more efficient and improve services, tackle anti-social behaviour, fix potholes, stop over-development of greenspaces, and keep council tax as low as possible to help deal with the cost of living crisis and improve prospects for those living in the borough.

And both parties are keen to focus on local issues and put behind them previous national party problems. Riordan, whose party endured a messy 2022 with scandal surrounding Boris Johnson and a short-lived yet disastrous Liz Truss premiership says: “When we speak to people they want to talk about what’s going on locally.

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“People know that the council really can’t affect what goes on in Westminster.”

Similarly Cook accepts, “2019 was probably our worst year as a party.”

“A lot of people I’ve spoken to have said they didn’t vote Labour in 2019 but they are going to vote Labour this time," he said.

“I think people will see 13 years of austerity from the Conservatives and decide it has been long enough.”

Voters will take to the polls in local elections across the Tees Valley on Thursday, May 4.