At its AGM on Thursday (April 18), members of Northumberland Labour Group elected Coun Susan Dungworth, who represents the Hartley ward, as leader and Druridge Bay member Coun Scott Dickinson as deputy leader.
It follows Couns Grant Davey and Dave Ledger, who were leader and deputy leader respectively of Northumberland County Council during the Labour administration from 2013 to 2017, announcing in January that they were standing down in order to allow ‘a new team with new ideas to formulate the manifesto and political campaign for the future’.
Coun Dungworth becomes the first woman to lead the Labour Party in Northumberland and could go one better by becoming the first female leader of the council should the group perform well under her stewardship.
“It is an absolute privilege to take over the leadership of the Labour group here in Northumberland,” she said.
“This comes at a time of crisis, with the Tory Government’s slash-and-burn approach to councils being amplified locally, with an out-of-touch Tory group trying to balance the books on the backs of the vulnerable.
“The council has failed to deliver real regeneration in communities like Bedlington and Blyth and has concentrated money in Ponteland and Morpeth.
“The Labour group as a team will be open and forward-looking, seeking to engage with local people, organisations and community groups as we look to draw a halt to the damage that the Tories are doing to the very fabric of our communities. I look forward to personally meeting with as many people as possible in the coming weeks, months and years.
“I would also like to place on record my thanks to my predecessor, Coun Grant Davey, who had served the group since 2008. Grant was always a passionate advocate for Northumberland and led the county while doing all possible to mitigate against Tory government austerity.”
Coun Dungworth believes she is taking charge at ‘a critical juncture’ for Northumberland with parts of the county ‘struggling under Tory misrule’.
She highlighted a report published last year which showed that almost 15,000 children in the county were living in poverty and pointed out that residents were stepping forward to show support through initiatives like food and school-uniform banks.
Coun Dickinson, who has held the position of chairman of the Labour group, said: “Both Susan and I are determined to deliver a Labour administration at County Hall that will work together with local people to build a Northumberland that works for the many.
“Austerity is tearing apart the fabric of our communities and thousands of young people are being left behind.
“The Labour group is determined that we will provide opportunities for our young people and ensure that we deliver the quality services that help people throughout their lives.”
Ben O'Connell, Local Democracy Reporting Service