South Tyneside’s first Green Party councillor has pledged to bring “fresh ideas” to South Tyneside Council after scooping victory at the polls.
David Francis took the Beacon and Bents ward with a 1,072-vote majority over Labour’s Audrey McMillan.
The win saw the campaigner scoop almost 70% of the vote and marks a historic moment for the party in South Tyneside.
The newly-elected councillor has pledged to bring more transparency to the council - which has been historically dominated by Labour.
He said the Greens could provide extra challenge by drafting alternatives to council budgets and suggesting eco-friendly policies to reduce carbon emissions.
He said: “If you have a variety of voices in the council chamber like we now have, it’s much more possible to get some challenge and some debate.”
Thursday’s elections were a significant one for the Green Party which picked up several seats around the North East.
This included a historic win in Sunderland and Washington South and two seats on Darlington Borough Council.
In South Tyneside, Green candidate Thomas Alexander Mower was only 43 votes away from scalping another Labour seat in West Park.
While some have argued the rise of opposition parties in the election could be linked to delays around the Brexit process, Coun Francis said the issues could be closer to home.
This includes Green Party and independent candidates being “really active” in their communities.
He said: “Prior to this, there were no Green councillors in the North East and all of a sudden we have four overnight.
“It definitely shows the Greens are doing something right.
“I’m not under any illusions that everyone has become more environmentally friendly in the last 24 hours.
“I think it’s to do with that constant presence year round and people and communities. The Green Party are taking action on their behalf and trying to make a difference.”
He added: “If you told me five years ago that I would even be a candidate I wouldn’t believe you.
“I’m not someone who sees themselves as a career politician, I’m just a normal person who wanted to see positive change happening in the local community.
“It’s been an amazing learning experience, I just hope I can invest all that experience in doing the role as well as I possibly can.”
South Tyneside Council’s overall make-up is now 48 Labour, four 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.
Beacon and Bents Results
Ali Hayder (Conservative Party): 121
Audrey McMillan (Labour Party) 795
David Roger Francis (Green Party) 1,867
Ward Turnout: 41.6%
Chris Binding , Local Democracy Reporting Service