Labour leader claims 'turning point' after party holds Hetton in by-election
Labour’s newest councillor on Sunderland City Council has pledged to get to work immediately after a narrow by-election success to hold the seat.
Councillor Iain Scott received 661 votes, just 27 more than Liberal Democrat candidate John Lennox, to clinch victory in the Hetton ward poll.
City Council leader, Cllr Graeme Miller, said the result marked a “turning point” for Labour, although Wearside Liberal Democrats argued it shows there are “no safe seats” for the leading party anymore.
The by-election was held after Labour’s Doris Turner, passed away in July, aged 81, after a brave battle with cancer.
Cllr Scott said he was thankful to be elected and is now looking to progress with the priorities outlined in his campaign.
He said: “We’ve had a lot of good feedback around the wards during the campaign itself so it’s a really positive result.
“The key priorities are absolutely as set out during the campaign, we’re going to look at things like antisocial behaviour, fly-tipping.
“We’ve been listening to residents around the doors as well so we’ve got a good understanding of what the issues are, and I’m looking to get to work immediately on those.”
In total six candidates were vying for the position as votes were counted at Hetton Lyons Primary School late on Thursday night, with Conservative Adelle Burnicle and Independent David Geddis also picking up over 300 votes.
Cllr Scott added the end result shows the work of the party in the region had been well received, and praised the “fantastic team” behind him.
“You’re looking at the investment at Hetton Primary, looking at investment at Elemore Lane with the green space there as well, there’s a lot of positivity going around and I think that vote shone through,” he said.
“What it says is that the communication the Labour party centrally are putting through in Sunderland is really starting to get through, and naturally the good work that’s been done in the Hetton ward.”
City Council leader, Labour’s Cllr Graeme Miller, said the result is a “line in the sand” for the party, after losing seats in the May local elections.
He said: “I think genuinely this a turning point, we’ve drawn a line in the sand now and said no more.
“Sunderland Labour are giving the message to people that look, this is what we’re doing for you, we’re listening to you, we’re delivering what you asked for, and they’re voting for us.”
However leader of the Liberal Democrat group on Sunderland City Council Cllr Niall Hodson, said their party increasing its vote share in the area by a huge 30.3% is a fantastic result locally.
The Hetton Ward includes Hetton itself, Easington Lane, East Rainton, Rainton Bridge and Moorlsey areas, and has never been held by any other party than Labour.
“We have shown that no seat in the Sunderland Council area can be considered safe for Labour anymore,” said Cllr Hodson.
“For far too long Sunderland’s ruling Labour party have taken local people and their votes for granted.
“Now Labour’s council bosses know that they can’t get away with ignoring residents and doing nothing for decades without the local Lib Dems challenging them head on.”
However Cllr Miller said Labour’s regeneration and renewal work in Hetton, and across Sunderland, is a “message of positivity”, supported by the election result.
He added: “What we had to beat and we did beat was the message of negativity that came from the Liberal Democrats and we stopped that in its tracks.”
Cllr Scott now joins Labour representatives James Blackburn and Claire Rowntree as the three councillors for the Hetton ward.
The total turnout in the by-election was 22.5% with 2,092 votes cast out of a total electorate of 9,312.
Results in full for the Hetton by-election:
Maurice Allen (Independent) 67
Adelle Burnicle (Conservative) 303
David Geddis (Independent) 386
John Lennox (Liberal Democrat) 634
Justine Merton-Scott (Green Party) 41
Iain Scott (Labour) 661