Darlington Borough Council is a unitary authority with all its seats up for election on Thursday. It has 29 Labour councillors, 18 Conservatives and six Lib Dems. I'm afraid the Conservatives haven't quite managed a full slate of candidates– but they have far fewer gaps than the Lib Dems. They have also been boosted by campaigning a visit from the Prime Minister.
The Conservatives have also published a local manifesto which stresses the need for better schools, regeneration and value for money.
The Conservative Group leader Cllr Heather Scott says:
“This year Darlington residents have the opportunity to put Conservatives in charge of the council.
“We do need to cut costs in non-frontline services but will do so by implementing wages and recruitment freezes first.
“The council also needs to fundamentally address the cost of its 61 senior officers earning more than £50,000-ayear and its political governance structure.
“We will embark upon a dynamic approach to commercial development with the ambition of developing at least 500,000sq ft of job-creating commercial space dispersed around the town in the lifetime of the next council.
“We believe that an ambitious growth strategy is the best way to balance the budget.”
The Conservatives have criticised Labour's spending on propaganda and the £3 million a year interest bill for its £73 million debt mountain.
The Labour Council's record on schools is especially bad. They tried to close a good school, Huirworth School, which is now becoming an academy.
Bycontrast there are other schools which have poor standards of discipline and are failing. The Darlington Conservatives want greater parental choice and competition between schools to drive up standards with more schools "free from political control."
Government Inspectors following damning reports placed two of our secondary schools and the Pupil Referral Unit in special measures. The PRU report was the worst most people had ever seen. The vastly differing performance records of our secondary schools have caused much distress to the many parents unable to obtain a place for their child in the school of their choice.
Behaviour: Darlington had the fourth worst record of exclusions in the Country.
Truancy: Darlington had the 12th worst record in the Country. This situation presents a huge challenge.
Other themes in the manifesto include how "anti car policies" should be replaced by those aimed at "unhinderedtraffic flows" to reduce journey times and carbon dioxide emissions. There would be closer relations with the voluntary sector and parish councils.