Potholes, littering and the need to hold council bosses to account are among the top issues highlighted by candidates in Sunderland for this week’s local elections.
Voters in Sunderland are due to go to the polls on Thursday, May 3, to vote in the latest round of elections to the city council.
A third of the council’s 75 seats are up for grabs and opposition groups are hoping to make a dent in the Labour Party’s dominance at local level.
“The problems with the council are quite serious,” said Niall Hodson, leader of Sunderland’s Liberal Democrats, and who hopes to add to his party’s current collection of three seats.
“We’re not going more than a few months without a scandal or an overspend on something and that’s the result of the Labour Party on the city council.
“The Liberal Democrats have repeatedly offered suggestions to these problems, so people who want to see these problems sorted should back us.”
As well as litter, fly-tipping and the general cleanliness of Wearside there is also frustration at the state of roads and on-going issues with the Vaux site and children’s services.
Coun Harry Trueman, the leader of the council, admitted 2015’s Ofsted inspection was ‘disastrous’ for the city.
But he also said it had been struggling with years of budget cuts forced by government austerity measures.
He added: “Front line services have suffered.
“Open the door and you see litter, but we’re doing something about it and officers have found £1.5m for front line services.”
And almost 20 years since it closed, uncertainty continues to surround the future of the Vaux Brewery site.
But Coun Trueman believes it is in as good a position as it could be, following the collapse of contractor Carillion.
He said: “We always wanted to develop it and we’ve finally started that, then Carillion came about and knocked the wind out of the sails of many local authorities.
“Fortunately we were out of the ground with the first building and it was water and air-tight.”
The Liberal Democrats will be hoping to build on 2017’s Sandhill by-election victory and February’s win to take the Pallion seat of late council leader Coun Paul Watson, who died in November aged 63.
The party has chosen not to join Labour, the Conservative Party and the Green Party in contesting all 25 seats up for grabs.
Despite their party getting the blame for austerity policies which have forced councils across the country to cut services, Conservative Party candidates hope a focus on local issues will reap rewards.
Sunderland’s Conservative leader Coun Robert Oliver said: “Unemployment in the North East is at a low and Sunderland’s economy is the sixth fastest growing in the country – the Conservative Party has a good story to tell.”
The Green Party meanwhile says it hopes to bring a ‘different approach’ to council business, with more collaborative working.
Green candidate for Hendon ward Richard Bradley said: “I have ambitions [for Sunderland] and I will never achieve those by standing in the council chamber and criticising.”
However, one party that will have no chance of changing Sunderland after polling day is UKIP, which despite finishing runner-up in most wards at the 2016 local elections in Sunderland has not entered a single candidate this time around.
Visit www.sunderland.gov.uk/elections to find out more about the upcoming elections and how to vote.
We have been asked to clarify that while Lynn Appleby will remain the Liberal Democrat candidate on the ballot paper for Sandhill ward, she remains suspended by the party pending the outcome of an investigation into allegations she shared offensive posts on social media.
Sunderland local elections in numbers:
206,296 electors in Sunderland (according to the City of Sunderland Register of Electors published March 1, 2016)
25 seats up for grabs out of 75 which make-up the city council
65 the current Labour majority on the city council
10 opposition councillors (6 Conservatives, 3 Lib Dems and 1 independent)
7 parties fielding candidates
4 independent candidates
3 parties fielding candidates for all contested seats – Labour, Conservatives and Greens
0 UKIP candidates
James Harrison , Local Democracy Reporting Service