Labour loses five seats in South Tyneside as The Green Party wins historic victory and independent candidates claim scalps
South Tyneside has its first ever Green councillor as the Labour Party saw a dent put in its grip on power in the borough.
Recent years have seen Labour hold almost total control in South Tyneside. But the party lost five seats on election night, one to the Greens and four to independents.
The Green Party candidate David Francis romped to a landslide victory in Beacon and Bents, where David Francis took 1,867 votes, unseating Labour's Audrey McMillan who polled less than half that number with just 795 votes.
"I've been elected tonight with a huge majority, it's incredibly humbling and I just wanted to say a huge thank you to all of the people of Beacon and Bents who wished us well, and more importantly put their faith in me at the ballot box.
"It's a real reflection of the hard work that the team's done all the way through the year for the past few years, working hard for the local area, listening to peoples concerns, taking action on the things that matter to them - and really presenting a viable alternative to the Labour Party which, until tonight, held 53 of the 53 council seats in South Tyneside."
Councillor Francis said the party had seen encouraging results in other wards in the borough.
"This is really a historic night for the Greens. We've never held a council seat in South Tyneside before tonight. In fact, before tonight, there has never been a Green Party councillor in a principle authority anywhere in the North East.
"Sunderland just beat us to it (earlier in the night), but it's fantastic to hear what they've done in the last year or so, and as we say, we're absolutely knocked out by the support local people have given us."
But it was independent candidates who inflicted the most damage on Councillor Iain Malcom's ruling Labour Group.
The Westoe, Primrose, Fellgate and Hedworth and Bede wards all fell to independent candidates:
John Andrew Robertson (Independent) was elected to represent the Fellgate and Hedworth ward with 1163 votes.
Paul James Milburn (Independent) was elected to represent the Primrose ward with 759 votes.
Glenn Michael Thompson (Independent) was represented to represent the Westoe ward with 712 votes
Keith Roberts (Independent) was elected to represent the Bede ward with 1170 votes.
Councillor Milburn said: "Thank you very much for your support. We're really, really pleased with tonight's result."
Councillor Roberts said: "It's been an outstanding result, now let the changes begin."
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Councillor Robertson added: "Thanks to everyone for their support and for voting for me. Everything I've said during the election campaign, I promise I'll back it up - and more."
Labour, however, easily retained control of South Tyneside Council taking 14 of the 19 seats that were contested across the borough.
South Tyneside Council’s overall make-up is now 48 Labour, four new independents, one Green and Coun Jeff Milburn, who was elected as a Conservative last year.
The overall turnout was 33.4% (compared to 33%in 2018), with 38,342 votes cast out of a total electorate of 114,680.
The highest turnout was in the Cleadon and East Boldon ward, where two seats were being contested. More than 46 per cent of the electorate chose to cast their vote.
Council leader Iain Malcolm and his deputy leader Councillor Alan Kerr were both up for election and both comfortably retained their seats.
Coun Malcolm took 1077 votes in his Horsely Hill ward, where his nearest rival David Scholey of Ukip won 516 votes.
Councillor Kerr won 862 votes in his Monkton ward, with independent candidate Marian Stead winning 643 votes.
Coun Malcolm thanked voters in his ward for reelecting him but spoke of his disappointment at the results for his party.
"I'm very disappointed that the Labour Party has lost a number of seats in South Tyneside but this seems to be mirrored across the region and across the country, and I think it is because residents are becoming extremely frustrated at the national party's ability to deliver what they see as Brexit and referendum result three years ago.
"Decent, hardworking councillors of all political persuasions have lost their seats - not because they were bad councillors, but because the voters have vented their frustrations on the national parties and their inability to deliver and get some sort of Brexit deal through the House of Commons.
"It's a real shame, but I just hope that all political parties nationally take a message from the electorate and get this sorted out."
But Westoe candidate, Jack White, said his goal was to make Conservatives the "leading opposition party" in the borough.
“We will be present at every meeting, engage more residents and campaign all year round, not just at election time," he said.
“People can expect a lot more from us next year we just want to move forward, not back.”