New Lib Dem councillor sends warning to Labour and UKIP after Sunderland City Council election win
Sunderland's newest councillor has aimed a political broadside at both the city's ruling Labour party and UKIP after his election victory.
Liberal Democrat Stephen O’Brien was victorious in his bid to take the Sandhill ward seat on Sunderland City Council, taking 45% of the vote.
That saw him comfortably defeat Labour's Gary Waller, who polled 25% of the vote.
UKIP's Bryan Foster got 18.7%, Conservative candidate Gavin Wilson got 10% of the votes and the Green Party's Helmut Izaks received 1.3%.
Coun O'Brien, 26, described the win as "phenomenal" and said the result showed the Lib Dems are now "the alternative party to Labour in the North East".
Labour chiefs said they would have to listen to the message delivered by voters.
He said: "It is a phenomenal victory for us.
"We have worked hard for three months.
"I am 26 and from Grindon, so I represent my home ward."
Coun O'Brien said the victory had been down to hard work on the doorstep, adding: "People saw me regularly out and about round the ward, they knew who I was.
"A lot of people voted for me personally, because I was someone that they knew.
"It is quite clear that if you look at the result, we smashed the Labour vote.
"We are now the alternative party to Labour in the North East - UKIP don’t really have a say any more."
The result was the first time Sunderland had gone to the polls since last year's EU Referendum vote.
But Coun O'Brien denied the result was a case of voters changing their mind on Brexit, insisting: “We campaigned on strictly local issues - it really was not a vote on Brexit.
"It was about people being represented by someone they know and are familiar with, not a councillor in the civic centre."
The election was held after Labour councillor Jacqui Gallagher lost her seat after she failed to attend a single meeting for six months.
After the result, City Council Leader, Coun Paul Watson, said: "It was a by-election, which is always very unpredictable.
"The Liberal Democrats did a massive amount of campaigning in the area, and if you do the work, you expect to get some benefit.
"From our point of view, we had a good candidate, we have done a lot of work ourselves and got the message out.
"But the electorate has spoken. We believe that is pretty representative of the city.
"They have told us they want us to do things differently.
"We, as a Labour group, are listening, have listened, and we will be responding in a sensible manner to that."