Durham County Council

Durham County Council is a local authority governing the contemproary unitary authority area of County Durham in North East England. The council area covers part of the ceremonial county of County Durham, excluding those parts which now form part of the Borough of Darlington, Borough of Hartlepool and the part of Borough of Stockton-on-Tees north of the River Tees.

Durham County Council
Leader of the Council[1]
Amanda Hopgood (Liberal Democrats)
Deputy Leader of the Council
Richard Bell (Conservatives)
Leader of the Opposition
Carl Marshall (Labour)
Chief Executive
John Hewitt
Seats126 councillors[2]
Political groups
Administration (71)
  •   Liberal Democrats (17)
  •   Conservative (24)
  •   Independents (21)
  •   Derwentside Independents (5)
  •   North East Party (4)
Opposition (55)
Length of term
4 years
First past the post
Last election
6 May 2021
Next election
May 2025
Meeting place
County Hall, Durham

Between its establishment in 1889 and major local government reforms in England in 1974, the council governed the historic county of Durham

Following the 2021 Durham County Council election the council is under no overall control. A Conservative/Liberal Democrat/Independents coalition was formed at the 2021 Annual General Meeting.[3] From 1919 to 2021 the council was under the control of the Labour Party, who held a majority except from 1922-25.

At the time of the 2011 census the council served a population of 513,200, which makes it one of the most-populous local authorities in England. It has its headquarters at County Hall in Durham.


Durham County Council was established in 1889 as the upper-tier local authority for the administrative county of Durham. At the same time Gateshead, South Shields, and Sunderland were made county boroughs, exempting them from county council control. Darlington became a county borough in 1915, Hartlepool in 1967, and Teesside in 1969. Durham was the first county council to be controlled by the Labour Party, which won the most seats in 1919.[3]

In 1974 the boundaries of the council area changed significantly as the council areas of Tyne and Wear and Cleveland were partially created from areas in the northeast and southeast of the county. At the same time the council area gained the part of Teesdale south of the River Tees from the North Riding of Yorkshire.

In 1997 Darlington became a unitary authority, removing it from county council control.

Durham County Council itself became a unitary authority on 1 April 2009, when the seven remaining districts of the county (Durham (City), Easington, Sedgefield (Borough), Teesdale, Wear Valley, Derwentside, and Chester-le-Street) were abolished and the county council absorbed their non-metropolitan district functions.

The legislation which created the unitary authority allowed the council to name itself 'The Durham Council', however 'Durham County Council' was kept.[4]


The district is situated around non-metropolitan areas of County Durham covering the towns of Consett, Barnard Castle, Peterlee, Seaham, Bishop Auckland, Newton Aycliffe, Middleton-in-Teesdale, Shildon, Chester-le-Street, Crook, Stanhope, Spennymoor, Ferryhill, Sedgefield and the cathedral city of Durham. As well as all surrounding hamlets, villages and suburbs of the unitary authority.[citation needed]

Darlington, Hartlepool and Stockton-on-Tees are still part of the ceremonial county of County Durham but separate from the new unitary authority.[citation needed]