Sunderland Conservatives say ‘Brexit revolt’ not the only issue as they enjoy council gains

Claims of a ‘Brexit revolt’ in Sunderland do not explain Labour’s collapse at the polls, opposition leaders have said.

A tough round of local elections saw Sunderland City Council’s ruling Labour group lose ten wards last night.

Their loss was the gain of the Conservatives, who took their tally of councillors from eight to 12, while the Liberal Democrats, Greens and UKIP also found success.

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But while Labour council chiefs have tried to blame national issues for their electoral struggles, the Tories have insisted the real reason was closer to the ground.

Coun Robert Oliver, the city’s Conservative leader, said: “Some commentators are saying that these local elections in Sunderland have been decided by Brexit but this does a disservice to residents of the city who are concerned about the state of the city and know that local issues matter.

“The Labour Party had its worst night since the council was formed in 1973 with most of the seats up for grabs being won by opposition parties and its dominance of the city council being challenged like never before.

“It would be wrong to try and divert attention from the importance of local issues by pretending that everything can be explained in terms of a Brexit revolt when so many residents expressed a view on city issues on the doorstep.”

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James Harrison

James Harrison , Local Democracy Reporting Service