Tyne & Wear

Straws deny Conservatives in Northumberland election

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Media captionThe South Blyth seat was decided in an unusual way after two recounts failed to produce a winner

The battle for control of a council ended with the drawing of straws after a dead heat in the crucial final ward.

And the Conservative Party was denied overall control of Northumberland County Council after losing the unusual decider to the Liberal Democrats.

The South Blyth ward result followed two recounts and left the Conservatives with 33 of the 67 seats available.

Liberal Democrat candidate Lesley Rickerby described her defeat of Tory Daniel Carr as "very traumatic".

Image caption The Lib Dems won following the drawing of straws

Ms Rickerby said: "It's unbelievable that, when you consider we have a democratic service, that we end up having to draw straws.

"I certainly would have preferred it to be a majority, but the way our system works, after a couple of recounts, we had no choice."

In addition to the 33 seats won by the Conservative party, Labour won 24, the Lib Dems three and Independents seven.

Ms Rickerby added: "The returning officer decides if we would flip a coin or draw straws and he went with straws.

"I certainly don't want to do that again in a hurry - it really was the last straw."

In another result, Labour retained control of Durham County Council despite losing 20 seats.

The party won 94 seats in the 2013 election and that has now fallen to 74. Independent candidates have the second highest number of seats (28) followed by Liberal Democrats (14) and Conservatives (10).

Council leader Simon Henig said he was "very pleased" to have retained a majority in a "challenging" election.

In North Tyneside, Labour's Norma Redfearn was re-elected as the area's directly-elected mayor with 56% of the vote.

Results for seats on Durham County Council are due to be announced later.

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