HUNDREDS of people have signed a petition calling for a councillor's resignation after she announced she had joined the Labour Party.

Former independent councillor Enid Paylor defected only weeks after being voted on to the new unitary authority for County Durham.

Councillor Paylor is a Sedgefield borough and Great Aycliffe town councillor for Aycliffe west - where many of the signatures came from.

Aycliffe independent councillor Irene Hewitson said she had collected 350 signatures and that other are councillors collecting too. "There are a lot of people who just feel they have been conned, I certainly feel like I have," said Councillor Hewitson.

"Enid begged me not to stand in the west ward. 'We can't let Labour get in,' she said. I honestly can't believe the nerve of her."

Coun Paylor polled 678 votes, and Coun Hewitson said she would keep collecting signatures until she has 679.

"She should do the decent thing and step down. If she gets in again in a by-election she has been voted in fair and square," said Coun Hewitson.

Meanwhile, in a leaked letter to The Northern Echo, Labour Party officials have said Coun Paylor is not actually a member of the party.

Acting general secretary Chris Lennie has written to several Aycliffe Labour group members concerned about the situation.

Mr Lennie said that Coun Paylor was excluded from the party in 2004 and must rejoin the party before she can then join the local Labour group.

Before she does that, Coun Paylor must first face the Labour National Executive Committee disputes panel which decides on her application, according to the letter.

A Labour North spokesman confirmed that Coun Paylor had submitted an application and welcomed the move.

"The Labour Party has a procedure which it follows in the case of an application to rejoin," he said.

The spokesman said that Coun Paylor had support in the Durham County Council Labour group and Sedgefield Constituency Labour Party.

However, it is thought that her application is being resisted in the Newton Aycliffe branch.

Coun Paylor was unavailable for comment last night.