South Tyneside Council elections 2022 preview: The key battles, seats to watch and everything else you need to know

Voters have the chance to go to the polls this week to shape the political make-up of South Tyneside Council.

By Chris Binding
Wednesday, 4th May 2022, 2:20 pm
Updated Wednesday, 4th May 2022, 2:21 pm

Polling stations open at 7am on Thursday, May 5, with around one third of the local authority’s 54 seats due to be filled.

At least one seat in all 18 of South Tyneside Council’s electoral wards is being contested, with two available in the Harton ward following the death of councillor Rob Dix in February 2022.

Polls will close at 10pm on Thursday with the final results due to come through in the early hours of Friday morning.

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A previous election count at Temple Park.

Here is a guide to what the council looks like currently and what could happen next.

Council make-up

Labour has held control of South Tyneside Council for almost the entirety of the council’s history since being formed in 1974.

Back in 2018, the ruling Labour Group was primed to take 100% control of the council with Labour councillors elected to all 54 seats.

However, this plan was scuppered following the election of then Conservative councillor Jeff Milburn in the Cleadon and East Boldon ward.

Since 2018, the ruling Labour Group lost five seats in the 2019 local elections and four in the 2021 local elections, with Green Party and Conservative Party councillors and independents entering the council chamber.

A by-election in September 2021 in the Cleadon and East Boldon ward, to fill a vacancy left by Jeff Milburn, saw the Conservatives grasp a narrow victory over the Greens and Labour.

Another by-election earlier in July 2021, triggered by the resignation of independent councillor John Robertson, saw candidate Jay Potts take the Fellgate and Hedworth seat back for Labour.

The Labour Party currently holds 45 out of South Tyneside Council’s 54 seats, with the Green Party holding three, the Conservatives two and four held by independents.

Of the 19 seats which will be decided on May 5, 2022, one is currently held by the Conservatives and the rest have most recently been held by Labour.

Key battles

Labour will be hoping to halt the trend of losing seats to rival parties and independents in recent years.

With a large number of veteran councillors standing down a mix of former candidates, first-time candidates and former councillors are hoping to fill their shoes.

All eyes will be on Beacon and Bents, where the council’s first Green councillor David Francis was elected in 2019, followed by another election win in the ward from Green Sue Stonehouse in 2021.

Fay Cunningham will aim to defend the seat for Labour but a victory for Sarah McKeown would see it become an all-Green ward. Independent David Wood and Conservative Ali Hayder are also in the running.

Although standing candidates in every ward, the Green Party are also hoping to gain another seat from Labour in West Park following the election of Peter Bristow in 2021.

Another key ward will be Cleadon and East Boldon where voters elected Conservative councillors in May 2021 and at a by-election later the same year.

Stan Wildhirt, elected at the by-election, will be defending the seat standing against the Green Party’s David Herbert and Labour’s Philip Toulson.

Primrose was the other ward Labour lost in 2021, with independent councillors now occupying two out of three seats.

Labour’s Moira Smith is looking to defend the remaining seat this time around from Conservative Margaret Snowling, the Green Party’s Kevin Alderson and independent candidate and former councillor John Robertson.

Other wards to watch, which saw opposition councillors elected in 2019, include Westoe, Bede and Fellgate and Hedworth.

Simonside and Rekendyke, which falls against the backdrop of the controversial Holborn housing development in South Shields, is also set to be a key battleground.

What happens next

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.

If there is an influx of new opposition councillors, membership of committees may need to be ‘rebalanced’ to reflect the new political make-up.