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Council seeks unitary applicants

21 December 07 17:08 GMT

Candidates are being sought for County Durham's first unitary council elections, due to be held next year.

The single, county-wide authority will be created in April 2009, subject to Parliamentary approval.

Elections will be held in May 2008, when the existing 63 county councillors will stand down, to be replaced by 126 unitary councillors.

The creation of the new authority means the county's seven district councils will be scrapped.

For the first year, new councillors will have a dual role, running the existing county council and overseeing the unitary reorganisation plans, including setting its first budget for 2009.

Mark Lloyd, the county council's chief executive, said: "It's important that the councillors overseeing reorganisation have a fresh democratic mandate to set up the new council.

"So we have published a prospectus to provide information to prospective candidates on the new councillor role.

Legal challenge

"I hope as many people as possible seriously consider this opportunity to become actively engaged in a new era of local government in County Durham."

The 310 existing district councillors will remain in office throughout next year to run the district councils until the unitary handover in two years' time.

A legal challenge against the creation of the unitary authority, by Chester-le-Street, Derwentside, Easington, Sedgefield, Teesdale, Wear Valley and Durham City councils, is currently on hold.

It will be reassessed in January following an appeal by Shrewsbury and Atcham Borough Council over the dismissal of its High Court challenge to Shropshire's unitary plans.

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