WEDNESDAY, September 3 was a dramatic day - both for Northumberland County Council and the Hexham Courant team.

As the weekly print deadline of 5.30pm approached, what was unquestionably the biggest story of the week remained incomplete - would the county council oust its leader of the last three years, Peter Jackson, or would he cling on?

In the end, Coun. Jackson was voted down by his fellow councillors, losing a motion of no confidence by a single vote.

The decision was made just before 6pm, meaning the Courant just made it to print - a quite literal "stop the press!" moment.

Three Conservative councillors rebelled against their own leader to bring him down by 33 votes to 32.

Cramlington councillors Wayne Daley, Christine Dunbar and Mark Swinburn all voted to support the motion of no confidence.

Bywell's Coun. Karen Quinn did not attend the meeting, while the Conservatives lost what may have been a vital vote after Coun. Robbie Moore was elected as an MP in December - a by-election has not taken place because of the COVID-19 crisis.

The loss for Coun. Jackson may have been by a bigger margin, but for the support of the three Bedlington Independents and Coun. Alan Sharp, who represents Haltwhistle.

The fall of Coun. Jackson followed weeks of accusations, leaked emails, and mudslinging in the wake of CEO Daljit Lally being suspended after raising concerns over "possible bias" on behalf of the former leader and issues at Advance Northumberland.

Bringing the motion before councillors, Labour leader Susan Dungworth explained that council staff had been working in fear after the CEO appeared to be suspended for whistleblowing.

She said: "Our officers are not meant to be subject to intimidation and bullying.

"They're not paid to deliver our services under a cloud of scandal and embarrassment.

“Peter Jackson has become the story and his desperate attempt to save his reputation is causing incalculable damage to the reputation of this great county council, the staff who work for it and the people we represent, and it’s actually causing damage to our reputation for failing to deal with it.”

Coun. Jackson's plea to be allowed to stay on and clear his name -he has denied all the allegations against him - fell on deaf ears.

Speaking at the meeting, he said: "We need to stick together as a council and stop all this petty bickering.

“In terms of there’s no facts or evidence to back them up. I think now is not the right time to do this. We’re going to leave a council in chaos."

So what happens now? The chief executive of the council remains on leave, and now the elected leader has been removed, leaving the authority with entirely new, interim leadership in the midst of a global pandemic.

It was announced later in the meeting that Coun. Glen Sanderson will be the interim leader of the council until a new leader is elected from the largest party at the next meeting of full council.

Coun. Sanderson, cabinet member for Environment and Local Services, was appointed deputy leader in August, after the former deputy leader, Coun. Daley, resigned from the cabinet in protest of the treatment of Ms Lally.

Coun. Sanderson was elected as the new leader of the Conservatives unopposed last week, while Coun. Richard Dodd was elected as the party's third deputy leader in a month. 

Kelly Angus is now the interim acting chief executive, while Cath McEvoy-Carr is the interim acting deputy chief executive. There has, as yet, been no word on when, or if, Daljit Lally will return to her post.