The opposition on South Tyneside Council is at its weakest in the history of the local authority as councillors prepare to meet up for the first time since the general and local elections.
Tomorrow, members of the borough council are to gather in the council chamber at South Shields Town Hall after the local elections saw Labour tighten its stranglehold on power.
“I have no interest in being the leader of the opposition” COUN LEE HUGHES
The party now has 52 of the 54 electoral ward seats.
Only two non-Labour members remain - the Conservative Jeff Milburn, who represents Cleadon and East Boldon, and Independent Lee Hughes, in Jarrow’s Bede ward.
It is expected that Coun Milburn will be put forward for the role of leader of the opposition at tomorrow’s full council but he is currently undergoing treatment in hospital and will not be able to attend.
That will leave Coun Hughes as the only non- ‘red’ standing tomorrow night.
Coun Hughes said: “I have no interest in being the leader of the opposition. I just don’t have the experience after just one year as a councillor. I don’t want to get involved in the political arguments in the chamber. My role is to serve the people of my ward. That’s why I sought election.”
The previous leader of the opposition, independent George Elsom stood down in the Cleadon Park ward in South Shields before this month’s local elections.
Recent years have seen the decimation of the borough’s political opposition.
There are now no Progressives, Liberal Democrats or UKIP councillors represented.
But ex-UKIP councillor Steve Harrison, who finished second to Labour’s Stephen Hepburn in the Jarrow Parliamentary election, is confident his party has a bright future in the borough.
He said: “We have our AGM in June and we have already had some potential candidates expressing an interest in standing at the elections next year.
“We have established ourselves as the borough’s main political opposition.
“We just have to convert some of those second places we got into firsts next time round.”