South Tyneside Alliance Group become new ‘official opposition’ to Labour on South Tyneside Council

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An “alliance” of independent councillors has become the new main opposition group to Labour on South Tyneside Council.

The night saw a number of opposition councillors elected across the borough with the surge of support almost tipping the council into ‘no overall control’.

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When the dust settled, Labour still had majority control of the council but the local authority’s political make-up had changed significantly.

Independent candidates won 10 of the 18 seats up for grabs in the local elections this year, holding Primrose ward and gaining seats from Labour in Bede, Boldon Colliery, Cleadon Park, Fellgate and Hedworth, Harton, Horsley Hill, Simonside and Rekendyke, Westoe, and Whiteleas.

At the time of writing, opposition independent and Green councillors make up nearly half of the council’s total 54 seats.

The South Tyneside Alliance Group has become the "official opposition" to Labour in the borough. Cllr David Kennedy, the Group leader, is pictured in the centre.The South Tyneside Alliance Group has become the "official opposition" to Labour in the borough. Cllr David Kennedy, the Group leader, is pictured in the centre.
The South Tyneside Alliance Group has become the "official opposition" to Labour in the borough. Cllr David Kennedy, the Group leader, is pictured in the centre.

At South Tyneside Council’s annual meeting on May 14, 2024, it was confirmed that the South Tyneside Alliance Group is now the main opposition group on the council, a status previously held by the Green Party.

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According to the council’s website, the South Tyneside Alliance Group is currently made up of 13 of the 14 remaining independents.

The group will be led by recently re-elected Primrose ward councillor, David Kennedy, with newly-elected Westoe councillor Kate Owens-Palmer serving as deputy group leader.

A statement from the South Tyneside Alliance Group clarifies they are not a political party but an “alliance of individuals with diverse political views”.

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The group also has a shared belief that “bringing party politics into local government can have a detrimental effect on debate, and that decisions taken on that basis can be severely compromised because of tribal block voting”.

Councillors in the group have a range of working backgrounds and experience, from retired managers and business owners, to ex-armed-services, drivers, those with experience in health and education, and previous local government staff.

The main theme that aims to hold the alliance group together is a “belief in honesty and transparency with the needs of the resident at the forefront of our thoughts”.

Looking forward, independent councillors in the group aim to focus on building close relationships with ward residents, working to help residents with concerns and explaining reasons where this is not possible on a case-by-case basis.

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Following the local elections in May, 2018, South Tyneside Council’s Labour Group controlled 53 out of 54 seats on the local authority and no independents were elected.

In the years since independent councillors have been elected and have worked together, including forming the South Tyneside Alliance Group which has included both independents and Conservatives in the past.

This alliance group had also served as the official opposition party in the council before, but the Green Party later took on the mantle.

With the Conservatives losing their sole seat in Cleadon and East Boldon in the 2024 local elections, the alliance group is now made up of independent councillors only.

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With increased numbers and formal group status, the South Tyneside Alliance Group members also have more senior roles on key council committees.

With several years until the next ‘all-out’ local elections, where all 54 council seats will be contested under revised ward boundaries, the South Tyneside Alliance Group is working to provide “sustainable opposition” and has been supporting new councillors to “hit the ground running”.

The South Tyneside Alliance Group statement said: “This 2024 election in South Tyneside has presented us with a distinct change in the public’s democratic views throughout the borough.

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“Recent local issues have not been dealt with effectively, which has influenced the votes of South Tyneside residents, who have clearly felt let down by the current ruling Labour Group and are now looking for an alternative, and trustworthy source of support.  

“Will this change in democratic allegiance be sustainable?  To a large extent, this is in our hands”.

The alliance group statement added: “We have only two years before the next local government elections, and we aim to use our time in office to make changes that are seen to benefit the residents of South Tyneside and give them a sense of progress.

“We are prepared to put in both the time and effort to try and deliver a service that our residents deserve”.

More information about the South Tyneside Alliance Group can be found via South Tyneside Council’s website at: https://southtyneside.gov.uk/article/4969/Councillors.

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