LABOUR restored its majority of ten seats on the North-East's biggest council, after retaining a vacant seat in a by-election yesterday.

The party's candidate, Jennifer Ann Bell, beat off her sole challenger, Conservative candidate Margaret Reid, to ensure Labour hold the seat in the Deneside division, in Seaham, on Durham County Council.

It was made vacant following the death of former council leader Albert Nugent in April.

Coun Bell polled 917 votes, compared to 196 for Mrs Reid, giving a 721 majority.

The turn-out of 1,113 represented 20.25 per cent of the 5,535 electorate.

Newly elected councillor Bell, a Seaham Town councillor, joins husband Eddie at County Hall as he holds the other Deneside seat.

Mr Bell is also a Seaham town councillor.

It was the second vacant seat retained by Labour in recent weeks, after the party's candidate, John Turnbull emerged comfortably top in a three-way poll for the Brandon seat made vacant by the death of another long-serving Labour member, Ronnie Rodgers, in May.

The by-election filled the last vacancy on the 126-seat unitary authority leaving the state of the parties as Labour 68, Liberal Democrat 24, Independent 11, Conservative and Derwentside Independent, both 10, and Independent Liberal 3.