The Darlington Labour party has stressed the need for a new council plan after accusing the previous Conservative-led administration of being “asleep at the wheel”. 

Councillors discussed the latest progress report, titled ‘Delivering Success for Darlington’, which sets out the vision for the area and includes ensuring “everyone has the opportunity to maximise their potential”.

Key priorities outlined by the council include: growing Darlington’s economy; maximising the potential of our young people; working with communities to maximise their potential; supporting the most vulnerable in the borough; and a dedicated workforce who are proud to serve the borough and an accessible, effective and engaged council. 

But speaking at a cabinet meeting on Monday, council leader Stephen Harker said there is a need to reassess the priorities of the authority after previously saying difficult decisions will need to be made as it balances its budget. 

It follows the news that the Labour-led administration has removed the two-hour free car parking scheme and the public fireworks display, both endorsed by the previous Conservative administration. 

Cllr Nick Wallis, cabinet member for children’s services, told Conservative leader Cllr Jonathan Dulston that the council Labour has inherited is in a tough position.

“We have just had the last four years of the Conservatives saying how wonderful things are, everything is fine, move on, nothing to see here,” he added. 

“The people of the town had their say in May as to how well the last Conservative-led administration was doing, and frankly you were asleep at the wheel.

"You were very very good at saying how wonderful you were doing, the cabinet was cavorting around saying how brilliant Darlington was but the stark reality was very different. People can see the difference between a local authority that was talking the talk but not walking the walk.”

“Darlington is a place where people want to live and businesses want to locate, where the economy continues to grow, where people are happy and proud of the borough,” the report added. 

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Continuing his criticism, Cllr Wallis said Labour will take a different approach to running the council.

He added: “It will require a new plan that lifts up the stone and looks at some of the really tough situations residents face, partly as a result of Covid but certainly as a result of the living crisis we face at the moment. 

“This report will turn a page away from saying everything’s wonderful and everything in the garden is rosy to actually rolling up our sleeves and acknowledging there’s work to be done.”