LABOUR’S grip on Leeds was loosened in the local elections – but party bosses say it could have been much worse.
Of the 33 seats up for grabs 19 went to Labour, seven to the Conservatives, one to the Green Party and one to an independent candidate.
Labour lost five seats – Aireborough, Headingley, Wortley, Otley and Wharfedale and Rothwell – but gained Harehills from the Liberal Democrats and Hunslet from the Independent Socialists.
Coun Neil Taggart (Chapel Allerton), a senior Labour party figure, said he was pleased with the results.
“We gained two seats and held on to seats like Bramley and Halton against many people's predictions,” he said.
"We are still in overall control with 57 seats out of 99 and a good working majority. We have been in power for 20 years and some people say it is time for a change. But the people of Leeds have given us another vote of confidence.”
The Conservatives and Liberal Democrats picked up two seats each from Labour. The Tories gained Aireborough and Otley and Wharfedale and the Liberal Democrats took Rothwell and Headingley.
Coun Mark Harris, Liberal Democrat leader, admitted the night had been “unexpectedly good” for the Labour Party.
“Overall we made not as many gains as we hoped,” he said. Conservative leader Andrew Carter conceded that he was disappointed with the result. “We had hoped to make five gains,” he said, “but we have made no losses and stand now at 18 seats.
In Harehills Labour’s Roger Harington beat the former Liberal Democrat councillor Javid Akhtar by 674 votes. Mark Collett of the BNP was third with 209 votes. The Leeds University student was greeted with jeers from Anti-Nazi League protesters when he arrived at the Town Hall.
Victorious Labour candidate, Roger Harington, said: “I am very relieved they got as few votes as they did.”
Police have launched an investigation into the BNP after the YEP revealed some residents claim to have signed nomination papers in support unwittingly.
Roundhay Ward went to the wire with defending Conservative candidate Peter Harrand eventually winning by just 89 votes.
Denise Atkinson, former Lord Mayor of Leeds, held onto Bramley for Labour with a good majority.