THE Conservative Party has extended its majority on North Yorkshire County Council with the election of its candidates in one of England’s most rural wards.

Councillor Yvonne Peacock, a former leader of Richmondshire District Council, secured 884 votes to win the Upper Dales seat on the county council, which was vacated following the death of Independent councillor John Blackie.

Meanwhile Jill McMullon received congratulations from many at the count after winning her late partner’s Hawes, High Abbotside and Upper Swaledale seat on the district council with 409 votes.

Cllr Blackie had represented the area on the authorities for more than two decades.

It had been hoped to hold the votes in September, but concerns over the availability of polling stations following flash flooding in the area, led to the by-elections being put back by several weeks. The district by-election saw 46 per cent of voters turn out and while 41.5 per cent of voters turned out for the council by-election.

The result was announced in the early hours of Friday at Thornborough Hall in Leyburn by the district council’s chief executive Tony Clark amid great tension as it was clear the contest for the seat between the late partner of Cllr Blackie, Jill McMullon, and Cllr Peacock had been close.

Supporters of the candidates had started trying to get an indication of the result as ballot boxes had arrived from the 16 polling stations across the expansive ward, which includes dozens of villages in Wensleydale, Swaledale and Arkengarthdale.

During the count supporters had expressed optimism and pessimism as council officers counted the crosses on the ballot papers. While seats such as Bainbridge and Aysgarth proved successful for Cllr Peacock, Cllr McMullon secured almost all the votes in Muker.

After all the papers were counted it emerged Ms McMullon had lost the county council seat by just 143 votes with 741 votes. Liberal Democrat Simon Crosby secured 204 votes and Kevin Foster of The Green Party 107 votes.

The result represented a significant swing towards the Conservatives as Cllr Peacock had secured 740 votes to Cllr Blackie’s 1,540 votes in the May 2017 county elections.

County council leader Councillor Carl Les was among the first to congratulate Cllr Peacock on joining the 54-member ruling Tory group on the authority.

Cllr Peacock said: “We have had an extremely good, clean election. I am absolutely amazed that I have won this election.”

However, Ms McMullon secured a majority on the district council seat of 162 votes over Conservative candidate Pat Kirkbride, who won 231 votes, while Green candidate Margaret Lowndes received 57 votes.

Cllr McMullon, of Askrigg, who has previously served as a Richmondshire councillor for 12 years and twice served as the district authority’s chairman, said: “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.”

Kevin Foster, who became the Green Party’s first councillor on the district council in May, said he would continue pressing for “the Green agenda to be put on the agenda” of both authorities.

Liberal Democrat agent Councillor Richard Good said the result had been encouraging for the party, which would continue working for people who had been affected by the summer flash flooding.