Electoral pact talk dismissed again as candidates revealed ahead of local elections in Sunderland
Opposition groups in Sunderland have once again dismissed speculation of an electoral pact after candidates for local elections were confirmed.
More than 90 candidates are set to contest 25 seats up for grabs on Sunderland City Council when polls open on Thursday, May 5.
Labour faces a fight to retain control of the local authority it has held for almost half a century, after successive votes chipped away at its majority in the council chamber.
But all sides have been keen to downplay talk of political deals after the final list of aspiring councillors standing in Wearside’s wards revealed the Liberal Democrats had stepped aside in 12 of the 25 being fought over.
'Unacceptable' HMO refused for Sunderland neighbourhood where there is already too much shared housing
Double trouble for Sunderland twins who tried to trick police over their indentities
Family of 13-year-old cyclist Gregg Lewis McGuire pay tribute to “cheeky boy who lived life to the fullest” after tragic death
Sunderland AFC reveal new Stadium of Light ticket office and club shop opening hours after fan complaints
Caught hook, line and sinker: Sunderland pair in court after social media posts brag about illegal salmon and sea trout fishing on River Wear
"We’re just targeting our activity a little bit,” said Niall Hodson, leader of the council’s Lib Dem opposition group.
"We’ve not had pacts with anyone to stand or not stand in particular seats, it’s just how it’s worked out this year.
"We have fewer resources, money or members than the other two big parties, so we have to focus where we think we have a fighting chance and that has been very effective for us.”
Labour and the Conservatives are fielding candidates in all 25 seats up for election – a full third of the council chamber, one in each city ward.
The Green Party plans to contest 23, although this does not include the Washington South seat, which won the party its first North East councillor in 2019, until his resignation two years later.
However, while the Lib Dems plan to field just 13 candidates this term, compared to 23 last year and 20 in 2019, Cllr Hodson is satisfied previous careful targeting of seats has paid off in the past and can do so again.
Under his watch, the Lib Dems have grown to control 12 of Wearside’s 75 council seats, compared to Labour’s 43 and the Conservatives’ 19.
Nine veteran councillors are due to retire from the local authority on polling day, having served more than 100 years between them.
Conservative leader Antony Mullen also played down talk of a deal.
"I think they have just been strategic with the resources they have got,” he said.
"I can’t remember a time when they [the Lib Dems] have ever had candidates in all 25 wards.
"They’ve continued with their by-election candidates and I don’t think any of the other areas, like Ryhope or St Anne’s, were ever targets for them."
But Graeme Miller, the Labour leader of the city council, who is up for re-election in his own Washington South ward in May, where the Conservatives made gains last year and the only one of Washington’s five seats which the Lib Dems have opted to contest, had a slightly different interpretation.
"It should be embarassing for them that the Green Party can put up more candidates across the city than the Liberal Democrats can manage,” he said.
"But I don’t think anyone should read too much into it, at the end of the day, regardless of which candidates stand in a ward, people will vote based on what they think is the most positive outcome for them.”