THE Tories and Lib Dems took a pasting on Wearside as voters made their feelings on the Coalition Government known at the ballot box.
Labour took four seats from the Conservatives, and the Lib Dems saw their share of the vote plummet as the party failed to win a single seat in Sunderland.
Sunderland City Council leader Paul Watson, who comfortably held his Pallion seat last night, said a mix of local and national issues – particularly public sector cuts – was behind Labour’s success.
“It’s been an excellent night for us,” he said. “It’s been a really good turnout, 44 to 45 per cent in some places, which I really think this shows the strength of feeling of the public of Sunderland.
“I think there are a number factors in the result this evening. I think it was a complete and utter rejection of the policies of the Tory-Lib Dem Government and the damage that they are doing to our city.
“I also think it’s an endorsement of how Sunderland City Council has treated our communities, how we’ve ministered to those communities during our years in office.”
Labour took seats gained by the Tories in recent years in Washington South and Washington East and struck in what had become Conservative strongholds in St Peter’s and St Chad’s.
Former Tory leader Lee Martin clung on to his Barnes seat by fewer than 100 votes.
Coun Watson added: “I don’t think there are any safe seats for the Tories. Next year, given that the real devastation of the Coalition Government cuts will develop, I think we’ll see an even bigger swing.”
Sunderland Conservatives’ leader Tony Morrissey said his party was disappointed with the result.
“Losing four was on the margin of what we expected (from the polls),” he said. “I think it’s a truism that when a party’s in national Government, it loses out in local government.
“We enjoyed the benefits when we were out of national Government. Now our party is in national Government and has to take big decisions, not necessarily the popular decisions.
“I think a lot of people have just grasped for Labour, thinking Labour would protect them, but they haven’t protected them before and they won’t protect them this time.”
Former St Peter’s Tory councillor Graham Hall, who lost his seat last night to Labour’s Barry Curran, said: “This is democracy and I accept that. I’d like to think I worked hard for the ward and I think I’m paying the penalty for national decisions.”
Wearside’s three Labour MPs were at the count at the Sunderland Tennis Centre to support their party’s candidates.
Sunderland Central MP Julie Elliott said: “We have had a good night tonight. It’s the cuts, of the Government governing on no mandate. They weren’t elected to be doing what they are doing.”
Labour won 22 seats, the Conservatives three and the Independents one.
Labour is now up to 56 councillors, the Conservatives down to 14, the Independents still have three and there is one “Independent Conservative”.
The Green Party came third in six of the seven Sunderland wards it contested, beating the Lib Dems in all but Millfield.
The anti-Europe United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP) came second in Hetton with a relatively impressive 956 votes, and beat the Lib Dems into fourth place in two Washington wards.