Monday, 30 November 2015

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Labour takes one seat in city



A SOLITARY Labour gain in yesterday’s Carlisle City Council elections has left the Conservatives clinging to power by the narrowest of margins.

As Labour lost council seats across the country it bucked the trend in Carlisle by taking Morton from the Liberal Democrats, the only ward to change hands.

The result leaves Labour with 25 councillors. The Conservatives have 19, the Liberal Democrats seven and there is one Independent, Bill Graham.

If he votes with Labour, the Conservatives will need the support of the Liberal Democrats and the casting vote of the mayor to retain power at the annual meeting on May 21.

Labour group leader Michael Boaden was delighted by his party’s performance, particularly in seeing off a strong Conservative challenge in Yewdale and Belle Vue.

Labour’s Mary Styth scraped home by 31 votes in Belle Vue while Joe Hendry won by just 10 in Yewdale.

Mr Boaden said: “We have bucked the national trend.

“I’m thrilled for my two colleagues in Belle Vue and Yewdale who have had hard, closely-fought campaigns.

“This result means that the Conservative leadership of the City Council is under even more scrutiny because they have failed to make a breakthrough anywhere.

“The Liberal Democrats have moved closer to the Tories and look what has happened to them. Voters have rumbled them. They’ve seen what they are about.”

Labour’s victory in Morton, where John Bell won the seat vacated by former mayor Ralph Aldersey, capped a miserable night for the Liberal Democrats.

They also failed to take Dalston from the Conservatives, one of their top targets.

Liberal Democrat leader Trevor Allison said: “It was obviously disappointing to lose Morton. That’s the way it is.

“In Dalston, we didn’t have the resources to work the ward this time. Our aim was to hang on to Morton, and to Castle which we did.”

Mr Allison said his group would now consider who to support at the annual meeting.

In previous years, the Liberal Democrats have always voted to elect Conservative Mike Mitchelson as council leader.

That vote is crucial as the leader picks the other members of the ruling executive.

Mr Mitchelson said: “We’re disappointed not to have made gains but we came very close in Belle Vue and Yewdale.

“But we haven’t lost anything and we’ve increased our majorities in some seats.”

The British National Party contested six wards, came second to Labour in Currock and beat the Liberal Democrats to third place in Harraby.

Although best known for its hard-line stance on immigration and asylum, it was the only party in Carlisle to campaign for weekly dustbin collections.

Brian Allen, the BNP’s candidate in Currock, said he would have won but for hostile press coverage in the run up to yesterday’s poll.

He said: “Everybody mobilised against us and we still came second.

“It has just made us stronger. We will be back.”

Bangladeshi restaurateur Abdul Harid, the Labour victor in Currock, becomes the city’s first Asian councillor.

He said: “I feel the BNP targeted me. There was a racial element to their campaign.”

There was no breakthrough for the only Independent candidate, Maureen Toole, who stood in Belah in protest at the deselection of her husband Alan by the Conservatives.

She polled a respectable 399 votes but finished third behind Conservative Trish Vasey and Labour’s Tommy Johnson.

Eighteen of the 52 seats on Carlisle City Council were up for election.

Voter turnout, at 35.5 per cent, was up slightly on the 34.6 per cent recorded last year.

Elsewhere, the Independent group has lost overall control of Eden Council.

The Conservatives made four gains from Independents, giving them 14 councillors. There are still 19 Independents and five Liberal Democrats.

Counting in the Allerdale Council elections was due to take place today and the results will be posted on the website.


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