Labour maintained its predicted stranglehold on Sunderland City Council in an election which still came with a couple of surprises.
Securing 22 seats out of the 25 wards on offer, the ruling party took home a comfortable victory after last night’s local election count.
However, in a surprise move, Liberal Democrat candidate Niall Hodson grabbed the Millfield seat from under Labour’s feet.
It is the first time that the LibDems have a presence on the authority, since 2012 after regaining the seat they lost to Labour.
Coun Hodson polled almost double that of Labour rival, former Coun Bob Price, who was booted off his seat with 1,588 votes to his 838.
“The thing that got me into politics is the absolute rank complacency of Labour in Sunderland.”Coun Niall Hodson, Liberal Democrats
He said: “I’m very pleased. We lost the seat in 2012. We should never have lost it, and it’s important that we are back so that there is an alternative to the Labour Party in Sunderland.
“The thing that got me into politics is the absolute rank complacency of Labour in Sunderland.”
Perhaps surprisingly, portfolio holder for children’s services, Coun Pat Smith, retained her seat in Silksworth.
Coun Smith has faced repeated calls to step down after the running of the authority’s children’s services were taken over by the government, after inspectors found “serious and widespread” failings.
Despite its loss in Millfield, Labour gained one seat overall after securing seats in Copt Hill and Houghton, which were previously held by independent councillors.
Coun Michael Mordey said he was proud to have been elected for the third time, to serve the Hendon, ward for another four years.
“It proves that if you work hard and you have a hard- working team behind, people back will back you,” he said.
“We’ve lost Millfield and I hope Coun Hodson will be able to live up to the image he has portrayed in the past month.”
The Conservatives retained two seats, with former opposition Robert Oliver returning to the council after being elected in St Michael’s, and Bob Francis holding on to his Fulwell seat.
Coun Oliver said: “I’m really pleased. I’m delighted that in St Michael’s we got a really good majority, actually up slightly since we since we defended the seat the last time in 2012.
“I’m really pleased that we held on to Fulwell with a big majority, in a ward where we actually lost last time.”
Ukip did well, coming runner-up in the majority of wards it contested.
However, its biggest success was Hetton, with John Defty coming in second to Labour’s Jim Blackburn with 1,037 to 1,531 votes.
The party’s Wearside chairman Richard Elvin said: “We did well in many areas. We came second in all but two wards that we contested, so it’s onwards and upwards.
“The North East is a Labour stronghold, so it’s a tough nut to crack.”