A PROSPECTIVE Tory MP says the decision to build a controversial bail hostel in County Durham was made on purely political grounds.

Addressing a packed public meeting in Chester-le-Street, Matthew Palmer told anti-bail hostel protesters that Labour Party spin doctors chose the town because of its massive Labour majority at the last election.

The Conservative Prospective Parliamentary Candidate also said the Probation Service earmarked the town for the 25-bed hostel because it had an outgoing MP in long-serving Giles Radice, who steps down at the next election, instead of a high profile member such as Tony Blair in Sedgefield or Hillary Armstrong in North West Durham.

In picking a constituency with a massive majority and no high-profile members of parliament, the county probation service would expect the massive majority to easily 'soak up' any defectors to other parties, he said.

North-East Labour Party officials dismissed his claims as electioneering.

Speaking at Chester-le-Street's Greenbank Club last week, Mr Palmer said he was suspicious that the quiet north Durham market town was chosen for such a large facility.

He added: "It's got one of the biggest majorities in the North-East - so it can afford to lose a few votes - and it has an outgoing member of parliament. This is not so politically sensitive compared to places like Sedgefield and North West Durham. If this seat became marginal there would be no bail hostel."

A Labour North-East spokesman said outgoing MP Giles Radice and new Labour parliamentary candidate Kevan Jones both back the protesters' fight.

He added: "It was Chester-le-Street Labour council that threw planning permission for the plans out while the Tory councillor for the ward didn't even turn up for the vote.