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Labour could lose Durham County Council for first time in 100 years

Labour leader Keir Starmer says he takes 'full responsibility' for the party's losses in the May 6 election - Credit: PA

An alliance of councillors could form to take control of Durham County Council off Labour for the first time in more than 100 years, it has emerged.

Independents, Conservatives and Liberal Democrats are holding meetings to discuss how they would share power in what was once a stronghold of the Labour party.

Labour has 53 of the 126 councillors, which is 11 short of a majority.

The Conservatives have 24 and Liberal Democrats 17, with most of the remainder made up of Independents who are aligned in three groups.

John Shuttleworth, the leader of one of them – the Durham County Council Independent Group – said the public wanted change and Independents would not shore up a Labour-controlled council.

The councillor told the PA news agency: “There is a will for all of us to come together under an alliance that we can run jointly for the benefit of everybody.

“People have voted for change.”

He said Labour was now phoning Independents asking them to back their bid to retain control.

He said: “They need 11 councillors so they can get things passed, and I don’t think they will get that.”

Shuttleworth said issues he had with Labour included proposed new council offices in Durham city centre and the closure of the Durham Light Infantry museum.

Meetings were planned to thrash out how leadership could be shared on a rotational basis ahead of Durham County Council’s annual meeting on Wednesday, where the issue of who takes power will be decided.

Following the local elections earlier this month, the council’s Labour leader Simon Henig stepped down.