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Great Britain

Councillor first elected as UK joined European Community steps down

AS residents vote in polling booths in Darlington next month, one name which has been ever present on election slips since the UK joined the European Economic Community will be missing.

Some 46 years after first being elected to Darlington Borough Council, Councillor David Lyonette is retiring and said he would focus on domestic tasks.

He counted the restoration of the former industrial areas beside the River Skerne and the realisation of a walkway along the river into the town centre some 42 years after revealing the ambition among his top memories.

Cllr Lyonette said: “The past four years have been the worst time, with all the cuts and the loss of more than 600 council staff.”

Labour colleagues said the experience of Cllr Lyonette, who served as the town’s mayor in 1992, has lead the council on regeneration and planning for two decades before becoming its transport boss, would be much missed.

Former council leader Councillor Bill Dixon, who will also be stepping down, after 40 years on the council, said: “David has been an outstanding chair of development and the high quality built-up environment is down to him.

“His knowledge is phenomenal and will be a huge loss to the council.”

Other councillors standing down include 2015 mayor and twinning association chairman Tom Nutt, this year’s mayor Veronica Copeland and Sharifah Rahman, who became among the youngest elected politicians in the country in November 2017 when she won a by-election for the Red Hall and Lingfield ward aged just 18.

Since Cllr Lyonette was first elected, the authority has been run by Labour, except for between 1976 and 1979, when it had a Tory administration, and from 1987 to 1991, when there was no overall control.

When residents go to the polls on May 2, Labour will compete for all 50 seats on the authority, while the Conservatives will field 46 candidates, with fewer people than Labour contesting for places on the council in Eastbourne, Bank Top and Lascelles and Stephenson wards.

The Green Party will field 22 candidates, across 19 of the authority’s 20 wards.

In 2015, despite fielding candidates in all 20 wards the Green Party failed to win a seat on the council, which was composed of 29 Labour seats, 17 Conservative, three Liberal Democrat and one Independent.

The Liberal Democrats will have eight candidates, with three candidates in both Park East  and North Road.

There will be three candidates representing The For Britain Movement, in Brinkburn and Faverdale, Northgate and Park East wards, and two running as UK Independence Party candidates, in North Road and Park East wards.

The last election Rachel Mills secured a Brinburn and Faverdale seat for the Conservatives by just 21 votes, while Labour North Road member Dawn Storr won her seat by just 18 votes in the ward dominated by Liberal Democrats.

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