The latest round of local elections in Sunderland saw Labour take a bruising at the polls.
By the time counting finished at Silksworth Community Pool Tennis & Wellness Centre just after midnight yesterday, the party had wobbled, but still maintains an overwhelming majority in the council chamber.
However, the ruling group will now have to contended with a stronger opposition, after the Liberal Democrats won in three wards to double their troupe of councillors to six, while an extra two were added to the Conservative’s band.
Labour lost five councillors overall.
“It’s been a damaging night for Labour,” said Sunderland’s Lib Dem leader Coun Niall Hodson. “And it’s been a positive night for the Lib Dems, definitely.
“We’ve seen swings in our vote across the city and we’ve seen three significant gains.
“Pallion in particular I have to highlight, as just months ago it was the leader’s ward and in the space of months it’s now a majority Lib Dem ward with our strongest vote share in the city.”
The Lib Dems now have two of the three councillors for Pallion, following February’s election to fill the vacant seat of late council leader Paul Watson, who died last year.
There was also a good result for the party in Sandhill, where the fact that the winning candidate, Lynn Appleby, was suspended pending an investigation over allegations of offensive social media posts, was not enough to dissuade voters.
The same was true for the Conservatives, whose candidate Antony Mullen won in Barnes despite also being suspended by his party.
Sunderland’s Tory leader Coun Robert Oliver said he thought the results in the city reflected the “weakness”of Labour’s national leader Jeremy Corbyn.
He said: “It’s always difficult to win contests when you’re the party in Government, so taking St Chad’s and Barnes was very encouraging for us.
“I think we had candidates in those target wards who worked hard and it was a positive campaign focusing on local issues.
“I think the weakness of Jeremy Corbyn might be dawning on voters.”
Aside from holding a raft of seats, the solitary victory for Labour was in Copt Hill, where Jack Cunningham displaced independent Anthony Allen to become one of the youngest members on the council benches.
But council leader Harry Trueman, whose wife Dorothy secured re-election on the night in Washington West, ended the night with a warning for the newly-energised opposition.
“We’re here to do a job, we’re dedicated to the people of Sunderland and it’s very easy to be in opposition,” he said.
“You don’t know what the cuts are, how to manage it, what the Labour members have had to put up with on the streets.
“We’re hard-working, dedicated and we will continue doing the job for them.”
Local Democracy Reporting Service