Former opposition leader re-elected to South Tyneside Council – less than a year after he quit the local authority

An independent councillor and former opposition leader is set to return to South Tyneside Council after winning a seat in the latest round of local elections.

John Robertson was elected to the Fellgate and Hedworth ward in 2019 and went on to lead a group of independents on the council for a period of time.

In 2021, he was hauled before the council’s Standards Committee over comments he made about a fellow councillor and, in a separate case, an NHS boss.

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After being sanctioned by the council, he resigned his position, triggering a by-election which was won by the Labour Party.

Councillor John Robertson is back.Councillor John Robertson is back.
Councillor John Robertson is back.
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But at yesterday’s (Thursday, May 5) round of local elections, John Robertson was returned to the council chamber, this time representing the Primrose ward, joining independent councillors Paul Milburn and David Kennedy.

Mr Robertson, who had previously stood unsuccessfully in the Primrose ward, where he grew up, said he was “over the moon” with the result.

Following his win, he pledged to continue campaigning for “full transparency” within the council on housing and financial concerns, as well as fighting to return palliative care services to the former St Clare’s Hospice site.

Counting is underway in the South Tyneside Council local elections.Counting is underway in the South Tyneside Council local elections.
Counting is underway in the South Tyneside Council local elections.
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Cllr Robertson was elected to the Primrose ward with 875 votes - a 129-vote majority over Labour incumbent Moira Smith, who came second with 746 votes.

The win marks another victory for independents in the ward since 2019, making Primrose the only ward in the borough with three independent representatives.

Cllr Robertson said he was “grateful for each and every vote”.

“The benefit to me for the residents is, if there’s two independents and one Labour councillor, Labour can influence with their power of numbers,” he said.

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“With three independent councillors my opinion is that Labour councillors shouldn’t have any say in the funding for our ward or the work that gets done in the ward.

“Each councillor should stick to their own ward.

“About the tit-for-tat and squabbling and ill-feeling from both sides [at some council meetings], I’ve learned a lot of lessons whilst I was a councillor.

“Since I resigned with the benefit of hindsight there’s things I regret and things that I could have done better and there’s things I’m proud of, there’s a mixture.

“It has been a hard lesson and I’m hoping that by the way I come back into the council, the residents of Primrose are going to benefit.”

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Cllr Robertson said he would take all residents’ concerns personally and pledged to be “their voice in the council chamber" and demanding greater “transparency and fairness”.

"I will keep on banging the drum to say well it’s public money,” he added.

“The public deserve to know what’s going on behind closed doors, who made the decisions and why they were made.

“When I first started canvassing years ago, when I knocked on doors people asked me ‘what will you do for me?’ and the main thing I would say, whether I knew them or not, was this.

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“I will get you what you’re entitled to, no more and no less.

“I have stood by that ever since and will continue to do so for the next four years.”

South Tyneside Council’s overall make-up is now 41 Labour councillors, six independents, six Greens and one Conservative.