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Back to business...as Labour keeps a firm grip on Leeds City Council

Leeds City Council Local Elections 2014. 
The votes are counted in Leeds Town Hall.

Leeds City Council Local Elections 2014. The votes are counted in Leeds Town Hall.

DESPITE a big build-up, and an inevitable underlying sense of foreboding, the Leeds local election results did not throw up too many big surprises.

Labour retained its massive majority in the council chamber, and still has 63 seats out of the total 99.

The Conservatives also had several strong holds, and remain the main opposition with 18 seats.

The overall turnout in the city was just under 35 per cent.

The highest overall turnout was in Adel and Wharfedale, a traditionally big vote, with almost 44 percent. There was a bittersweet tinge to Billy Flynn’s otherwise stunning victory for the Conservatives. He will take over the seat previously held by Clive Fox, who passed away earlier this year.

Terry Wilford, whose win in Farnley and Wortley for the Greens struck the double blow of snatching a Labour seat AND staving off an extremely strong UKIP challenge, said he was “very happy” but “quite surprised” by his win.

“It really hasn’t sunk in,” he told the YEP.

“At the beginning of the count, I didn’t think I was going to do it. It was going from Labour to UKIP. But we did do a lot of canvassing and I think all the hard work that Ann and David Blackburn [current Green councillors for the ward) obviously contributed.”

John Hardy, who lost his Labour seat after one term, said: “I’m grateful for the opportunity I have had to serve the people in Farnley and Wortley. I wish the new Green councillor all the best for the future.”

There had been some tense moments for several long-serving councillors.

Labour’s deputy council leader Peter Gruen held off a strong challenge from UKIP, as did Mayor-elect David Congreve in Beeston and Holbeck.

Lisa Mulherin, who retained her Ardsley and Robin Hood seat for Labour by just 272 votes ahead of UKIP, said: “I am delighted that the voters have held with us and kept the faith with Labour principles. It’s a really significant result for us.”

Charity worker Fiona Venner, one of several newcomers to the council and the Labour fold, won the Kirkstall seat, replacing retiring veteran Bernard Atha.

“Bernard has been a councillor for 57 years so it’s a very daunting pedigree to follow,” she said. “But we’ve held with a really good majority so I’m delighted.”

She added: “I’ve worked in mental health for 20 years, and it is actually my work that very directly led me to want to go into politics, because I think the policies of the current {national] administration are impacting on the most vulnerable people.”

Council leader Keith Wakefield, who kept his own Kippax and Methley seat by a majority of 1,269 over runners-up UKIP, said: “Today’s result shows that the Labour administration in Leeds is getting its priorities right but there is, of course, always more work to be done.

“We are determined to continue our efforts to invest in our economy so we can deliver more jobs and training opportunities, particularly for our young people.

“We will push forward with our plans to provide much needed affordable housing and, in the face of massive Government budget cuts, we will continue to find new ways of working in order to protect vital services for our vulnerable and elderly.

“There is no getting away from the fact that the next few years will be hard as the Government continues to slash council funding. We also know that many of our most vulnerable residents are bearing the brunt of Coalition welfare changes and big increases in the cost of living. That is why we have stepped up efforts to tackle poverty and financial exclusion – and that vital work must continue.

“Next year we’ll be bringing more services out to the local communities, working with local people to protect and improve services.”

STRONG SHOW FOR UKIP ‘SENDS A CLEAR MESSAGE TO MAIN PARTIES’

DESPITE the party not winning any seats, the strong Leeds vote for UKIP - more than 15 per cent of the total - sent a clear message to the main parties.

The party fielded 27 candidates, and came in second in several wards, including Ardsley and Robin Hood (by just 272 votes), Beeston and Holbeck (775 votes), Bramley and Stanningley (492 votes), Burmantofts (714 votes) and Farnley and Wortley (294 votes).

The swing to UKIP was significant in both Labour and Tory heartlands, with true-blue areas like Harewood and Wetherby and Labour strongholds like Middleton Park all seeing a large chunk of support for the party.

Alan Felber, who looked for a while to have snatched the Farnley and Wortley ward, but was eventually defeated by the Greens, said: “Thanks to the electors who actually treated us with respect.

“The people are no longer going to be treated with contempt, and that’s the main message that’s going out.”

 

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