Labour losses and Conservative and Lib Dem gains: How it happened in Sunderland City Council election

Labour’s election woes in Sunderland started before polls even opened, with reports the party feared losing control of the city council.

Friday, 7th May 2021, 6:19 pm
The election was held on Thursday, May 6.

In the end it clung on thanks to strong showings in Washington and the Coalfield.

But an attack in the city itself by the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats saw the number of red seats in the council chamber shrink from 48 down to 42 – just above the 38 needed to retain majority control.

Shortly after all ballots had been returned to Silksworth Community Pool, Tennis and Wellness Centre, sources from all three main parties were commenting on how tightly fought many wards looked to be.

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Hendon, defended by former deputy leader of the council Michael Mordey, was the first confirmed result, with the victory of Lib Dem newcomer Ciaran Morrissey setting a tone for the rest of the night.

A dominant showing in Sandhill also saw the seat snatched by the Lib Dems and while Labour held on to Southwick and Hetton, the thin victory of incumbent Pat Smith in Silksworth, by just 47 votes, told its own story.

The Tories then entered the fray with the second big scalp of the night, defeating cabinet member Rebecca Atkinson in Barnes to complete a clean sweep of the ward.

This was followed up with a successful Tory defence in Fulwell and the conversion of Ryhope and St Peter’s, while the Lib Dems took Doxford.

Labour nerves may have been settled by a double double success in Copt Hill and Shiney Row, which each had two seats up for grabs.

Green sources had already privately conceded early in the night they were unlikely to hold the Washington South seat vacated by their former councillor Dom Armstrong.

But it was still a surprise to many that this had opened the door to the Conservatives, who took one of the two seats on offer, while incumbent Louise Farthing successfully defended the other.

Continued strong showings in Washington and the Coalfield put paid to previous Conserative ambition of a coalition to oust the ruling party, but the failure of Labour to successful flip any seats itself, combined with the collapse of the UKIP vote, is likely to give all city leaders food for thought over the 12 months until the next round of elections.

Ward declarations in order:

Hendon – Lib Dem GAIN

Southwick – Lab HOLD

Hetton – Lab HOLD

Sandhill – Lib Dem GAIN

Silksworth – Lab HOLD

Barnes – Con GAIN

Ryhope – Con GAIN

Fulwell – Con HOLD

St Peter’s – Con GAIN

Houghton – Lab HOLD

Doxford – Lib Dem GAIN

Copt Hill – Lab HOLD x2

Shiney Row – Lab HOLD x2

Washington South – Lab HOLD and Con GAIN

Millfield – Lib Dem HOLD

St Chad’s – Con GAIN

St Michael’s – Con HOLD

Washington North – Lab HOLD

Pallion – Lib Dem GAIN

Redhill – Lab HOLD

Washington Central – Lab HOLD

Castle – Lab HOLD

Washington West – Lab HOLD

St Anne’s – Con GAIN

Washington East – Lab HOLD

Final seat tally (all councillors):

Labour – 42

Conservative – 18

Lib Dem – 12

UKIP – 3