The big story here was Labour’s loss of control of Wirral Council which saw the group lose three seats including two cabinet members ousted, but gain another for an overall reduction of two. The election result means that there is now No Overall Control in the borough.
The big winners were the Green Party picking up two seats with the Tories and Lib Dems picking up a single seat each. Independent councillors were reduced by two. It’s not known exactly what will happen next, but following the selection of a new Labour group leader, Pat Hackett of New Brighton ward, following the retirement of Phil Davies, a deal will then be thrashed out with the other parties as to how the council is governed.
In Liverpool it was a tricky night for Labour which saw its majority reduced by three, but the results were overshadowed by a shock power grab by the former deputy mayor Cllr Ann O’Byrne who wants to return to a council leader and cabinet model and scrap the role of city mayor, currently held by Joe Anderson.
Her motion will be debated at the group’s AGM on May 13 meaning civil war in Labour ranks has broken out. Reports suggest she has strong backing, but a number of senior influential councillors have slammed her move. Cllr O’Byrne has confirmed that if that move happens, she will run for leader in a direct challenge to Mayor Anderson’s nine-year reign at the head of the party and council.
Meanwhile, although Labour retains its strong position of control, almost as a sideshow, the Lib Dems picked up two seats and The Liberals took one continuing their remarkable strength in Tuebrook and Stoneycroft with a third seat.
Elsewhere in the city region, Labour increased its majority in Sefton by two with the Tories losing three seats and the Libs Dems one, while Independent councillors now number five following two gains. Labour also held on to St Helens despite losing four seats, two to the Green Party and one each to the Lib Dems and Independents. Halton also saw Labour comfortably holding on to power, despite losing one seat to the Lib Dems. Knowsley, which has been Labour-led since its creation in 1974, remains red although even this stronghold was slightly weakened with the loss of three seats, two to the Greens and one going Independent.
Results in Greater Manchester mirrored the national picture, with mainstream political parties taking a hit from the explicitly pro-EU Liberal Democrats and Greens, as well as suffering at the hands of local independents.
Perhaps the biggest story across the region was the Labour’s long-hoped for regaining of Trafford. The party’s success in winning the six Tory seats it needed to reassert its control of the council after 15 years was an undeniable coup for the party on a mixed night, and Jeremy Corbyn visited Sale Waterside Arts Centre on Friday morning to celebrate the victory and praise local activists. Also notable within Trafford was the Green Party’s achievement in gaining Altrincham from the Conservatives.
Elsewhere, independents Farnworth and Kearsley First took their number of seats in Bolton from three to five at Labour’s expense, while fellow independents Horwich and Blackrod First also made gains, meaning Labour lost overall control of the council.
The splintering of the Labour vote in Bolton illustrates the increasing significance of hyperlocal groups campaigning on issues such as green belt development, as well as evident frustration and confusion with Jeremy Corbyn’s party’s ‘constructive ambiguity’ stance on Brexit.
In Stockport, the Conservatives suffered at the hands of the Lib Dems, with the latter making gains in Marple and Hazel Grove, meaning that Vince Cable’s party now has the same number of councillors across the borough as Labour. Labour hopes to maintain its authority on the council with backing from Heald Green Independent Ratepayers, but whether it will able to do so amongst protests from the Lib Dems remains to be seen.
Elsewhere, Labour managed to hold overall control of Bury, while losing Radcliffe East to James Mason, one of three independent candidates standing under the banner of Radcliffe First, with the aim of “seeing better things for the town of Radcliffe”.
Oldham, Rochdale and Tameside were all held by Labour with one seat being won in each. In Tameside, the Greens won a rare seat in Greater Manchester.
Labour held Wigan while losing two seats to independents and one to the Conservatives, but the main story from the town was the noticeably low 25% turnout. The local MP Lisa Nandy claimed the lack of voter interest was symptomatic of ongoing problems for Labour in northern towns.
The final declaration came in Manchester itself. It was a resilient showing for Labour in a traditional stronghold that saw the party hold on to all but one of its 33 councillors, with the Lib Dems gaining Didsbury West.
The big shocks in the region came in Cheshire where the Conservatives lost control of the flagship Cheshire East Council for the first time after losing a whopping 19 seats.
The party’s majority was eaten away by Labour, which gained nine seats, and candidates representing hyper-local independent interests.
It means the council is now in No Overall Control with the Conservatives occupying 34 of the council’s 82 seats, Labour 25, the Libs Dems four with 19 held by others, including Independent.
In the neighbouring Cheshire West and Chester Council, where every seat was up for grabs, Labour lost its majority in the first poll since extensive boundary changes, leaving it a hung council. The party fell one seat short of the 36 required to take control of the authority, having lost two seats, as the Lib Dems went from zero councillors to two while the Greens took their first ever seat on the Council. Independent councillors, numbering four, are now the third largest group, gaining two seats with the Conservatives now on 28, losing seven seats. Meanwhile, there was no election this year in Warrington.