Partner of Dales veteran John Blackie takes his district seat

The partner of John Blackie, the veteran Yorkshire Dales politician who died in July, has taken over his seat on Richmondshire District Council.

John Blackie

Jill McMullon, who stood as an independent, pledged to continue his fight to reverse the exodus of young people from the area, after she won the Hawes, High Abbotside and Upper Swaledale seat in a by-election.

Mr Blackie had represented the area on the district and county authorities for more than two decades.

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His seat on the county council was won with 884 votes by Conservative Yvonne Peacock, a former leader of the Richmondshire authority.

Jill McMullon with Coun Stuart Parsons at the memorial service for John Blackie. Picture: Tony Johnson

Her victory, in one of England’s most deeply rural wards, extends the Tories’ majority on the council.

Ms McMullon lost the county seat by 143 votes, in a result that represented a significant swing to the right.

She said after taking the district seat that she wanted to take on the planners of the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority.

“The authority has it written down that they must support young families, but when it comes to planning applications its decisions often do exactly the opposite,” she said.

Ms McMullon, who previously served for 12 years on the district council and was twice its chair, added: “It has only been three months since John’s death, so for me to receive so many votes is a massive achievement and a tribute to John. It gives me a base to build on.”

Ms Peacock, meanwhile, said she was “absolutely amazed” to have won his county seat, adding that she had “learned a lot” on the campaign trail and would concentrate on maintaining and improving the job and housing markets while striving to retain good services.

“I will fight for keeping our excellent schools open and ensure that we look after the needs of the older people. It’s about getting the balance right in the Dales,” she said.

The results were announced in the early hours of yesterday at Thornborough Hall in Leyburn, amid great tension as it became clear that the contest had been close.

The county ballot gives the Conservative group 54 of the 72 seats. On the Richmonshire authority, a coalition of independents, Liberal Democrats and the Green Party retains its majority of three over the Conservative group.