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Labour’s prospect of winning the new Tees Valley elected mayor role, one of six new mayors created as part of the government’s devolution drive, is hanging by a thread after its candidate Sue Jeffrey failed to win an outright majority of first preference votes cast.

The Tory candidate, Ben Houchen, was ahead on first preference votes, with 40,278 to Mrs Jeffrey’s 39,797.

Counting has now moved on to the second preference votes of the eliminated candidates, the Liberal Democrat and UKIP contenders, with a result expected at 2.45p.m.

Were the Conservative to win, it would be a significant victory for the Tories who do not control any of the five councils which comprise the Tees Valley Combined Authority, which the elected mayor will head.

The turnout was 21.3per cent.

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