EMERGING as Labour’s only real threat, UKIP was the real success story this year, with the party’s candidates finishing runners-up in 16 out of 25 wards.
UKIP’s avalanche was not enough to beat Labour, which took 21 of the 25 Sunderland City Council seats up for grabs.
In Labour stronghold Hetton, John Defty got 1,351 votes, narrowly missing out to Labour’s John Cummings, who, at 1,470 votes, won by a margin of just 119.
In Shiney Row, the party’s Tom Fowdy got 940 votes, compared to Mel Speding’s 1,668.
Richard Elvin, chairman of the Wearside Branch of UKIP and an MEP candidate, said: “Overall, we are absolutely delighted. With most of the wards we contested, it was the first time we contested them.
“We came a good second in the majority of the 25 wards – we had some stunning results, especially in Shiney Row, which is the strongest Labour ward in the city, and Hetton, one of the most traditional Labour areas in the city, in the coalfields.
“We are absolutely delighted. It goes to prove we really are the only opposition to Labour in the North East. We are gaining year on year. It was a fantastic result.”
Council leader Paul Watson said that while his Labour group had kept an eye on the opposition, they were never worried about losing out to UKIP.
“We are always respectful of the opposition, but we believe in what we are doing and that we are doing the right thing,” Coun Watson said. “We have made sure they have not gained a single seat.
“I think it demonstrates we’ve had a massive vindication of our policies for the city, that we have taken 21 out of 25 seats. We have the overall majority with 64 out of 75 seats.”
UKIP also came second in Castle, Doxford, Hendon, Pallion, Redhill, Ryhope, St Anne’s, Silksworth, Southwick, Washington Central, East, South and West wards.