THE Liberal Democrats held onto a key seat ion Durham County Council following a by-election.

The Esh and Witton Gilbert seat became vacant after Councillor Mike McGaun stood down earlier this year.

A four-way contest to fill the spot was comfortably won by Beverley Coult, ensuring the seat remains in the hands of the council’s Lib Dem group.

Speaking after Thursday's result, she said her priorities include tackling speeding and dog fouling, alongside work around public transport and facilities for children and the elderly.

She added: “I’m absolutely blown away. I have had fantastic support from everyone, not just within Langley Park but from other villages.

“I hope to work with the people and see how together, we can work to improve things and move forward.”

The ex-parish councillor, who is secretary of the Langley Park and Bearpark Cricket Club, saw 1,115 ballots cast in her name out of a total 1,764.

This accounted for 63 per cent of the vote and a huge 749-vote majority over Labour rival Anne Bonner.

Ms Bonner, a former county councillor, said she faced “challenging conversations on the doorstep” in her campaign.

She said: “I think because Brexit hasn’t been resolved it has been an issue.

“Because of the cuts government have made to local authorities, councils just can’t afford to provide the services that are needed by local people.

“It’s not about how the council want to make these cuts, they’re forced to make them.

“I will absolutely stand again. I very much believe in the Labour party and I think perhaps we need to be a bit stronger in our message.”

Independent candidate, Ryan Drion, got nine per cent of the vote with 155 ballots, beating the Conservative Party’s Richard Lawrie by a narrow margin to third place.

Mr Drion said: “I think I have shown independence throughout and I have come third in a four-way vote.

“Beating the Tories is an achievement in itself.”

Newly-elected Lib Dem, Beverley Coult, will now share the Esh and Witton Gilbert division with Lib Dem Arnie Simpson, who was elected in 2017.

Leader of the Liberal Democrat group on Durham County Council, Amanda Hopgood, said: “We have an excellent community councillor who will give her life and soul for the people she represents.

“I’m overwhelmed by the majority and the support, we have only held this seat for two years and it had been a Labour stronghold. This shows that public confidence is growing.”

Full Results:

Liberal Democrats – Beverley Coult – 1,115 (63.2%)

Labour Party – Anne Bonner – 366 (20.7%)

Independent – Ryan Drion – 155 (8.8%)

Conservative Party – Richard Lawrie – 128 (7.3%)

Rejected ballots – 6

Total ballots – 1,770

Rejected ballots – 6

Turnout: 28.2%