A Tory-run council has prompted a row by planning to spend £20,000 on changing the colours of its signage, logo and even bins.
Darlington borough councillors are being accused of wasting money to turn its branding Tory blue, at a time when budgets are under pressure and council tax has been hiked by 5 per cent.
The authority is undergoing a transformation project in an effort to “reconnect” with residents.
In 2019, Labour lost control of Darlington borough council after decades in power, and the town voted in a Tory MP for the first time since 1992.
The new project involves dropping the red, green and yellow of the existing signage.
“We know that the relationship under previous administrations has been damaged,” according to deputy leader Jonathan Dulston.
He confirmed the council wanted to distance itself from earlier administrations, but denied the intention was to align itself with Conservative Party blue.
“That would be inappropriate, and we know that. Ultimately the council – although we are in control – has to be independent from any party politics, so we wouldn’t want to go down that road in any way, shape or form,” he told The Guardian.
And he said the new colour being used was not blue, but teal – a blueish-green. “It’s a colour that has widely used by the council for a number of years now,” he said.
He added that local MP Peter Gibson backed the transformation, writing an article in The Northern Echo last month headlined “The world is turning blue, and we’re only just getting started”.
Funding for the redesign comes from £23m awarded to Darlington, in the Tees Valley, from the government’s towns fund, which is intended to boost struggling towns.
But Labour councillor Nick Wallis said many residents were unhappy with the proposals, particularly, he said, “as we’re a local authority under the cosh, in terms of austerity and council tax has just been put up by 5 per cent”.
He said the way the decision had been taken, without consultation or planning, and “the sheer political opportunism” was becoming a hallmark of the new Tory administration.
“This doesn’t paint, dare I say it, Darlington council in a good light,” he told The Guardian. “We don’t want to be in the headlines for these reasons. It’s a misuse of the town’s fund money, and I’m sure it won’t be the last occasion.”