Yorkshire local elections 2019 roundup: Conservatives collapse in York and Scarborough, Labour lose seats in Barnsley, Sheffield, Leeds and Wakefield but take back Calderdale, Lib Dems surge

A collapse in the number of Conservative councillors has dramatically reshaped the political landscape in two Yorkshire town halls as voters deserted the two main parties in this year's local elections.

By Rob Parsons
Friday, 3rd May 2019, 8:02 am
Updated Monday, 6th May 2019, 10:41 pm
Conservative Cllrs Helen Mallory and John Nock discus the events at the local election count at the Scarborough Spa. pic Richard Ponter
Conservative Cllrs Helen Mallory and John Nock discus the events at the local election count at the Scarborough Spa. pic Richard Ponter

In the City of York, which had been run by a Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition, the Tories were virtually wiped out and went from 12 councillors to two. The Liberal Democrats made huge gains and were close to having a majority with 21 councillors while Labour added four councillors.

In Scarborough, where the Conservatives had effective control with half the authority's 50 councillors, the party's majority was wiped out.

The Tories finished the day on 16 seats having started on 25. Independents picked up 14 seats and Labour 13. In a humiliating episode for the party it also lost a number of prominent councillors.

Elsewhere, the leader of a Yorkshire council described Labour's local election performance in his borough as its worst in 15 years as the party lost seats on a number of its councils in the region.

In the counts to take place so far across Yorkshire and the Humber, Labour have lost seven seats on Barnsley council, four on Leeds council, four in Sheffield and three on Wakefield despite maintaining its grip on all four authorities.And in Wakefield, a re-elected Labour councillor launched an explosive attack on the party’s MP for Pontefract, Normanton and Castleford, Yvette Cooper over her stance on Brexit, saying she “wouldn’t know democracy if it scratched her in the eyeballs”.

Labour's Richard Lewis, Leeds City Council's portfolio holder for transport, congratulates Tory Trish Smith after she ousts him from his Pudsey seat.

But the party looks set to take control of Calderdale, which has been under no overall control since 2002, after gaining a number of seats from the Conservatives. It was already the largest party and needed just two seats to win back Halifax Town Hall.

Labour held onto Hull council, which remained unchanged, and gained a seat in Bradford, but the Conservatives gained control of North East Lincolnshire Council for the first time since the authority was formed.

Counting takes place in Leeds at the 2019 local elections
Counting takes place in Leeds at the 2019 local elections

The Conservatives retained control of the East Riding of Yorkshire, taking 49 of the 67 seats and Labour losing all six of the seats it was defending. In North Lincolnshire the Conservatives also retained control, gaining one seat from the last local election in 2015.

In North Yorkshire, Richmondshire District Council is now in a state of no overall control after cutting the number of councillors from 34 down to 24. The authority, which is now the smallest in the country, had been run by the Conservatives but now no party has a majority. There are 10 independents, 10 Tories, three Liberal Democrats and one Green councillor.

The Conservatives remain in control of Selby council, despite losing five seats to fall to a total of 16. Labour gained a seat to move up to eight and the Yorkshire Party quadrupled their total to four.

Craven council nearly slipped out of Tory control after the Conservatives lost two councillors. They were one seat short of a majority but one of the independents, Stephen Place, remained aligned to the Conservatives, allowing them to retain control.

Ryedale Council remains under no political control, with 12 Conservatives, 11 independents, five from the Liberal Party and two Liberal Democrats.

And Hambleton remained blue despite the Tories being three councillors down from the 2015 election. The Conservative total of 24 seats in the rural district represents all but four on the council.

In Bradford, two candidates had to draw lots to decide who would be elected after receiving exactly the same number of votes.

Nationwide, losses for both Labour and the Conservatives in the English local council elections were cause for critical reflection from the parties' politicians, with Brexit cited by many as the key cause.

With results in from 202 of the 248 councils where elections were held, the Conservatives had lost 864 seats and Labour 110, while the Lib Dems had gained 494 and the Greens 121. There were 174 more independent councillors, while Ukip lost 21.

Labour lost control in Bolsover, Derbyshire, for the first time ever, losing a swathe of seats to independents, as well as in Hartlepool and in Wirral , although it did gain Trafford from no overall control.

Labour suffered its worst night in Barnsley for 15 years – at the admission of the council leader – with the loss of seven seats in a local elections shake-up which also saw the town’s official opposition swing from Conservative to Lib Dem.

Labour leader Sir Steve Houghton blamed the national Brexit effect for his party’s performance, but the pro-referendum Lib Dem party picked up three seats on the council, creating a confused picture of voters’ motives. Independents and minority groups were also winners, gaining five seats on the Labour dominated authority.

Sir Steve said the message was “loud and clear” that voters were unhappy that Brexit had not been carried through.

He said: “It is a very bad night, the worst we have had for 15 years.”

Labour held onto control of Leeds City Council, albeit with a reduced majority, at this year’s local elections.

Following an intense evening of vote-counting, Leeds returned a weakened Labour administration, with the party losing four seats to the Conservatives, Liberal Democrats and the Greens.

The most high-profile casualty of the evening was Pudsey councillor Richard Lewis (Lab), the authority’s portfolio holder for Transport, who lost out to Conservative newcomer Trish Smith.

In Wakefield, newly re-elected Labour councillor Steve Tulley launched an explosive attack on MP Yvwette Cooper and blamed for Labour losses in Wakefield, in what was branded a “disappointing” night for the party.

Ms Cooper co-led a Parliamentary amendment which took a no-deal Brexit off the table at the end of March, which was promptly followed by a petition to deselect her as an MP.

Taking the microphone as his result was announced, Coun Tulley said: “There has been some wonderful candidates who’ve lost tonight.

“And it’s all because of the MP for Pontefract, Normanton and Castleford, who wouldn’t know what democracy was if it scratched her in the eyeballs.

“This district voted to leave the EU, and the way she has carried on has caused this council problems.

“It’s time them down in Westminster started to taking a bit of notice to what the people have said. It’s their antics that have cost us tonight.”

Jonathan Carr-West, Chief Executive of the think-tank the Local Government information Unit, said: “These are local elections but no one is talking about local government. There’s already an established narrative surrounding these results that is missing a massive piece of the puzzle by viewing it purely through the lens of Brexit.

"Brexit is as much a symptom as a cause. It cannot be separated from the the profound crisis affecting housing, care and local economies. Local government has been bled dry.

"Across the country, councils have been systematically undermined for a decade and this morning many hard working councillors will have lost their seats as a direct result of parliamentary gridlock. When we talk about Brexit what we don’t talk about is the urgent and essential task of transforming local public services and reinvigorating local democracy and civic life.”

The contests across England and Northern Ireland came as the Government was engulfed in controversy following the dramatic sacking of Gavin Williamson as defence secretary.

Mrs May has also been under fire from Brexiteers for delaying the UK's exit from the EU until the end of October.

The Tories fought the elections amid predictions the party could lose more than 800 seats.

Elections took place in 248 English councils outside London, and 11 local authority areas in Northern Ireland.

There were also polls for six elected mayors in Bedford, Copeland, Leicester, Mansfield, Middlesbrough and the new North of Tyne devolved regional authority.

Close to 60 per cent of the 8,425 seats that were in play in England were Conservative, with a quarter held by Labour.

The last time a majority of the seats were fought over in 2015, the Tories were on an electoral high as they secured their first Commons majority since 1992 on the same day.

Most of the electoral battles took place in the Tory shires or Labour strongholds in northern cities, limiting the prospects for large-scale gains by Jeremy Corbyn's party.

The results are unlikely to be a guide for European elections scheduled for later in the month, as neither Nigel Farage's Brexit Party nor the Remain-backing Change UK fielded candidates. However, Brexit was believed to have played a major role in the elections.