The Conservatives have made a come back in South Tyneside, denying Labour total control of the council.
Council Leader Iain Malcom’s ruling party was on course to hold all 54 seats on South Tyneside Council after the only opposition councillor, independent Lee Hughes, decided not to stand for reelection.
Labour took his seat in the Bede ward. However, former Tory councillor Jeff Milburn won a seat from Labour in Cleadon and East Boldon, which he previously served until being voted out in 2016.
The ward, which Councillor Milburn won with 1,601 votes, also had the highest turnout, with 47.6% of people voting.
The seat was previously held by Labour’s Councillor Margaret Meling.
Speaking after the result, he said: “There are 54 councillors in South Tyneside, 53 of which are Labour and I’m the only opposition member.
“If I had lost tonight it would have been totally dominated by Labour and there would be no opposition at all in the chamber.
“It would mean anything Labour would want to do was just a rubber stamping exercise. We told the public that and they have stood by us and voted so there is democracy in South Tyneside”.
South Tyneside Council leader, Iain Malcolm, said he was “really disappointed” about losing the Cleadon and East Boldon ward.
“Margaret Meling was an assiduous defender of the interests of the people of Cleadon and East Boldon and I have no doubt that she will be back in the future,” he said.
“At the end of the day the residents of South Tyneside are in charge and they decide who they want to represent them.
“Tonight they have given Labour a ringing endorsement to continue our strategy of progress on South Tyneside.”
This year one seat in each of the borough’s 18 wards was up for grabs.
The overall percentage turnout was 33%, compared to 33.8% in 2016, with 37,992 votes cast out of a total electorate of 115,067.
The lowest turnout was in the Biddick and All Saints ward, where 24.5% of the electorate chose to cast their vote.
Lead Members Councillors Nancy Maxwell, Moira Smith and Allan West, who have responsibility for co-operatives and partnerships, area management and community safety and housing and transport respectively, all retained their seats.
Councillor Maxwell retained her seat, with 1,527 votes in the Hebburn South ward.
Councillor Smith retained her seat with 1,122 votes in the Primrose ward and Councillor West retained his with 888 votes in the Westoe ward.
Councillor Olive Punchion, the Mayor of South Tyneside, retained her seat with 1,100 votes in the Biddick and All Saints ward.
A number of new faces joined the council. These include Stephen Dean (Lab) who received 951 votes in the Bede Ward – a seat held by Councillor Lee Hughes (Independent – Putting People First), who stood down.
Angela Ramsay Hamilton (Lab) was also elected to represent the Beacon and Bents ward with 1,235 votes. The seat was previously held by Labour Councillor John Wood, who also stood down.
The Liberal Democrats, Green Party and four independent candidates failed to gain seats.
However, Green Party candidate for Beacon and Bents, David Francis, won 960 votes - almost tripling the ward vote share on the previous election.
He said this was a significant change for the party, with increased vote share "across the board".
Speaking on voter intention, he said: “They know the power has been in the hands of too few people for far too long in South Tyneside.
“It’s almost a one-party state and tonight it still is - 53 out of 54 councillors being Labour councillors.
“We’re very optimistic for the future and we’re hoping to build on the success we have had tonight in terms of increased vote share.
“I think next year we stand a real chance of making a breakthrough”.
Local Democracy Reporting Service