LABOUR is today celebrating after retaining power in South Tyneside at yesterday's local elections.

The ruling Labour group maintains an overall majority in the council chamber – despite losing two seats to the new Alliance group.

In one of the biggest surprises, the borough's longest-serving councillor, Edith Battye, was ousted by the Alliance's Steve Harrison in Jarrow's Fellgate and Hedworth ward.

The Alliance, a coalition between Progressives and Independents, also celebrated victory in South Shields' Westoe ward with their candidate Victor Thompson. Meanwhile, former Mayor of South Tyneside Linda Waggott failed for a second time to win Jarrow's Bede ward, losing out again to ex-Labour man Tom Defty.

Another story of the night was the low turn-out, only 35.9 per cent of electors cast their vote – in comparison to 41.41 per cent two years ago.

That was despite South Tyneside's involvement in an electoral pilot scheme across Tyne and Wear including early voting booths.

South Shields MP David Miliband described the turnout as "extremely disappointing" and suggested a return to an all-postal voting.

Across the north east, Labour breathed a sigh of relief in its heartland after its councillors escaped heavy losses which hit the party nationally, particularly in the south.