Durham County Council’s leading team has undergone a major reshuffle as a new alliance takes control of the local authority.
In a historic day at the council’s annual meeting the first Liberal Democrat and female leader was elected, while the first Conservative deputy leader was also appointed.
Four Independent councillors have also joined the cabinet and the council has its first Independent chairman.
Liberal Democrat leader Coun Amanda Hopgood was elected leader of the council at Wednesday’s annual meeting, with Conservative Coun Richard Bell elected deputy leader.
Coun Bell was also appointed cabinet member for finance, while Independent Coun Paul Sexton has become cabinet member for adult and health services.
Conservative Coun Ted Henderson steps into the role of cabinet member for children and young people’s services, with Liberal Democrat Coun Elizabeth Scott appointed cabinet member for economy and partnerships.
Coun Alan Shield, leader of The Durham Group of Independents, was appointed cabinet member for equality and inclusion.
He said: “For many reasons, this is a hugely significant moment. For the first time in history, along with the county council’s first non-Labour, female Leader in Amanda Hopgood, we have elected an independent councillor as chairwoman of Durham County Council.”
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Independent Coun Watts Stelling was elected chairman of county council, while Conservative Coun Beaty Bainbridge was appointed vice chairwoman.
Coun Shield added: “Watts Stelling epitomises what it means to be a genuine, community-focused independent councillor, putting people before politics.
“His approach has been repeatedly endorsed by local voters during elections and on May 6, there were similar results around the county.
“The formation of a joint administration is a direct response to that and independent councillors will be playing a major role at the heart of it.
“Since the election, all of our partners have worked together for the common good, in preparation for this pivotal day.
“Now that we have succeeded in forming a joint administration, we will continue to cooperate as we run Durham County Council and serve the public in all areas of our great county.
“As part of that, it is a great honour to take up my role in Amanda’s Cabinet, as an independent councillor, alongside three more independent colleagues.”
The Cabinet in full
Leader – Coun Amanda Hopgood
Deputy leader and cabinet member for finance – Coun Richard Bell
Cabinet member for adults and health services – Coun Paul Sexton
Cabinet member for children and young people’s services – Coun Ted Henderson
Cabinet member for digital and customer services – Coun Susan McDonnell
Cabinet member for economy and partnerships – Coun Elizabeth Scott
Cabinet member for neighbourhoods and climate Change – Coun Mark Wilkes
Cabinet member for equality and inclusion – Coun Alan Shield
Cabinet member for resources, investment and assets – Coun James Rowlandson
Cabinet member for rural communities and highways – Coun John Shuttleworth