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Issue 1 - December 1971
Pensioner's Letter
Few readers will remember one surprising exception to the marked swing to Labour over the north-east in the municipal elections of May.

This exception was Durham City where, in six seats up for re-election, Labour made only one gain and that solely by way of a technical hitch in the nomination papers of the sitting Independent which forced him to stand down.

An interesting letter which appeared in the May 7 issue of the weekly newspaper, the Durham Advertiser, may well have some bearing on the voting, particularly since it was the last issue before election day.

This letter purported to be from a pensioner aged 76. It was signed E R Taylor but no address was given.

It stated that for as long as Durham City remained in Labour hands, there was little chance of a concessionary bus fare scheme for pensioners being introduced.

This letter went on to say that it was no accident that free bus passes or tokens for pensioners were already in use in Newcastle, Gateshead, Sunderland and Felling, councils not held by the Labour Party.

However, the writer, perhaps for reasons of senility, had got his facts a little mixed up.

Durham City Council was at that time, and still is, controlled by the Independent group. With all the Aldermen being Independent nominees the majority is, in fact, fairly substantial.

It is Durham City Labour Party who have been the consistent if unsuccessful champions of a concessionary bus fare scheme for pensioners and not the Independents.

The Labour councillors repeatedly urged the introduction of reduced bus fares for pensioners. But in the Council chamber over a period of 18 months, they were repeatedly outvoted.

Further, Felling and Gateshead, two of the towns mentioned in the list of councils allegedly not held by Labour, both were and still are held by - you've guessed it - the dear old Labour Party.

Councillor Derek Hanson, for the city Labour Party, issued a statement condemning publication on the slightly generous grounds that his party had not been allowed the right of reply in the columns of the pre-election issue.

Councillor Hanson reported that by Monday of the election week, his canvassers were getting confused reactions from would-be Labour voters on the doorstep.

It is not known how many pensioners who were formerly Labour voters stayed away from the polling booths after seeing and believing this letter.

Nor is it known just how many waverers or usually apathetic citizens were so incensed that they voted for Independent candidates.

No reasons were ever given for publication of this grossly inaccurate letter. Nor, until now, have any facts about its appearance been revealed.