Votes to be counted for North Yorkshire local elections

Candidates battling to serve on the newly-formed North Yorkshire Council will find out today if they have won over the voters.

Results from the polls for the 89 new wards, for which elected members will serve one year on the existing county council and four on the new authority, are expected to be announced from about 11am.

Unless a single party secures at least 46 seats, councillors will seek to form a coalition in the county which has traditionally been dominated by the Conservative Party.

Standing almost side-by-side outside The Forum theatre polling station in Northallerton, three of the six candidates contesting the county town’s two seats were engaged in chat, breaking off as a trickle of voters turned up to cast their ballot.

While much attention has been focused on the impact of Boris Johnson and Rishi Sunak’s recent controversies, Conservative candidate Caroline Dickinson, who helped lead the county council’s public health response to the pandemic, said voters appeared to be more preoccupied with local issues.

She said: “There’s been the odd comment, but these are local elections, it’s about the people, not so much the politics.”

Labour candidate Gerald Ramsden said the election had already proved testing for the established political parties due to the drastic reduction in the number of councillors, meaning in-party rivalries forming.

He added: “For me it’s about getting people out to vote.”

Independent candidate Paul Atkin said there were a number of seats where he feared voters would not turn out due to a lack of choice.

He added: “There’s quite a few seats where major parties have not fielded a candidate. If you come last it doesn’t matter because it shows you are out there for next time around.”

While the market town’s polling station appeared quiet, the one at Osmotherley, a North York Moors National Park village just seven miles up the road appeared a world away.

More rucksack-carrying walkers passed the doors of the village hall polling station than voters. This was despite the village hall also hosting the first parish council election in more than 30 years.

Standing outside, independent candidate for the division, David Hugill, said he felt such villages had traditionally been taken advantage of by the areas with highers concentrations of elected members.

He said: “Everyone wants to concentrate on the market towns, but the move for ‘levelling up’ may give the villages what they need.”

Also alone outside a polling station, at Colburn Sports Centre, was Carl Les, the county council’s leader for the last administration. Voters appeared to thin on the ground there too.

While he has represented the Catterick area since Tony Blair swept to power in 1997 he said he wasn’t taking the result for granted.

He said: “I remember waking up that morning listening to the radio and thinking I was going to get drubbed.”