LABOUR strengthened its grip on power in Sunderland tonight as voters gave the Lib Dems and Tories a bloody nose at the ballot box.
Labour gained six seats from the Conservatives, one from the Lib Dems and picked up another in Washington formerly held controversial “Independent Conservative” Eddie Wake.
Labour won 22 of the 26 seats up for grabs in Sunderland this year, with the Tories winning just two. Sunderland’s only Lib Dem councillor Paul Dixon lost his seat.
Sunderland City Council leader Paul Watson said: “It’s been an excellent night for us for a number of reasons. I think it’s a lot to do with the national policies.
“Sunderland have sent a message to Mr Cameron saying that his policies are hurting but they’re not working.
“We want to thank the people of Sunderland for keeping the faith in us.”
Among the Tories losing their seats was former Tory leader Tony Morrissey, who saw his Barnes ward fall to Labour’s Rebecca Atkinson.
Sunderland Conservative leader Robert Oliver said his party’s poor result in Wearside was down to national issues.
He said: “The results are slightly disappointing but we have managed to hold onto some seats, such as in Fulwell.
“We have seen that some very hard working councillors have found it tough because the Conservatives are in Government. I think the national issues have effected the local elections.
“We will regroup and come again in two years time and hopefully do better.”
It was a good night for Sunderland’s independent councillors, however, with Sheila Ellis and Derrick Smith holding their respective Houghton and Copt Hill seats after a fierce campaign battle with Labour.
Independent group leader Colin Wakefield, who was himself reelected to Copt Hill in last year’s elections, said: “Obviously we are delighted with the result and would like to thank the electorate in both wards for their continue support.
“The main issues have always been the continuation of the landfill, however there are many other issues we are involve with and we want a fair deal for the people of Houghton and Eppleton.”
•Full results, analysis and reaction in tomorrow’s Sunderland Echo and online.