South Tyneside Council elections 2022: Greens make more gains and independents add to Labour losses

The Labour Party has maintained its grip on South Tyneside Council despite losing more seats to the Green Party and independents.

By Chris Binding
Friday, 6th May 2022, 5:13 am

As the polls closed on May 5, 2022, candidates flocked to Temple Park Leisure Centre where votes were counted for the 19 seats contested across the borough.

With Covid-19 restrictions scaled back this year, the counting process was a lot smoother with the final results coming in before 1am.

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How election night unfolded.

When the dust settled, Labour bosses were left counting their losses with two seats lost to the Green Party and two lost to independents.

The Conservative Party also lost Cleadon and East Boldon to the Green Party just months after winning the seat in a by-election last year.

Councillor Tracey Dixon, leader of South Tyneside Council, said she was “disappointed” with the losses but stressed South Tyneside still had a “very strong Labour council”.

“We have worked on a very positive campaign trying to get the message across about how we’re investing in our people, making sure that our children have got the best start in life and that our vulnerable are given the opportunity to live independently at home if they’re wanting to do that,” she said.

South Tyneside Council leader Tracey Dixon on election night.

“So we’re investing in people but we’re also investing in our environment and we have three nationally recognised schemes going on in South Tyneside and there’s more to come.

“So we are working for the people and working for the environment.

“It’s just a little bit disappointing that we haven’t got that strong message across, strong enough, for residents to understand that Labour is the party to vote for.”

To win back seats in marginal wards, the council chief said the council needed to “give communities the confidence they are being listened to” and that plans were in place to do so.

(l-r) Green Party councillors David Herbert, David Francis and Andrew Guy.

Cllr Dixon added it was a “difficult challenging time in politics” and that people were “feeling less comfortable with the two main parties”.

She went on to say: “[The losses] could be down to a national element but for me, I need to build on the work that we’re doing locally to regain the confidence, in some wards, for residents to come back and support Labour.”

Key opposition wins on the night included the Green Party’s Sarah McKeown ousting Labour with a 498-vote majority in Beacon and Bents in South Shields on the back of Green gains in 2019 and 2021.

Green Party candidate Andrew Guy also stormed to victory in West Park with a 483-vote majority over Labour, while David Herbert won in Cleadon and East Boldon with 1,267 votes.

Councillor John Robertson is back.

Councillor David Francis, Green Group leader, said it had been a “great night for South Tyneside Green Party”.

Cllr Francis added: “Before I was elected in 2019 there had never been a Green Party councillor elected in South Tyneside.

“We got one elected in 2019, the next election we got two people elected and now we’ve got three elected tonight.

“It seems like a resounding win and it’s clear that people like what they get when they have Green Party councillors.

“We now have an entirely Green ward in Beacon and Bents and it is now one of the only wards that has no Labour councillors at all.

“It shows that people like what they get when they vote Green and they want more of it.”

Independent councillor John Robertson also celebrated a victory in the Primrose ward with a 129-vote majority over Labour councillor Moira Smith.

The former Fellgate and Hedworth representative resigned as a councillor in 2021. He attempted to retract his resignation, but was told this was not possible under council rules, and a by-election was arranged.

Following his election win in Primrose on Thursday night, former opposition leader Cllr Robertson said he was “over the moon to be back” and that he would continue “banging the drum” for increased transparency within the council.

The win also makes Primrose the only ward in South Tyneside with three independent councillors.

Another independent gain from Labour on the night included Paul Brenen’s win in the Westoe ward by a slim majority of just 28 votes.

Speaking after the result, he said: “I would like to thank each and every person in the Westoe ward who voted and supported me during this campaign.

“I’m honoured to have been elected as a councillor and look forward to the challenges ahead and serving the residents of Westoe”.

Despite the opposition gains, Labour easily retained control of South Tyneside Council taking the majority of seats contested across the borough, including a double election in Harton.

A number of Labour councillors will also be making a return to the local authority, including Jane Carter and Katharine Maxwell who were elected to the Whitburn and Marsden and Biddick and All Saints wards respectively.

Now the council’s overall make-up is 41 Labour councillors, six independents, six Greens and one Conservative.

The overall voter turnout this year was around 33.4% compared to 35.6% in 2021), with 38,148 votes cast out of a total electorate of 114,367.

The highest turnout was in the Cleadon and East Boldon ward with 50.6% of the electorate choosing to cast their vote.

With the elections complete, South Tyneside Council will hold its annual general meeting where it will be confirmed who takes up key roles on the council, including political leadership positions and the Mayor of South Tyneside.