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Labour strengthens grip on Birmingham, but Ukip waiting in the wings

Labour strengthens grip on Birmingham, but Ukip waiting in the wings

🕔23.May 2014

Labour consolidated its grip on Birmingham City Council, but failed to make major gains on a mixed bag night of election thrills and spills that saw one cabinet member lose his seat and another hold on by the skin of his teeth.

The party increased its huge majority with a net gain of one, holding control of the council easily enough, but results were skewed by a strong performance from Ukip, whose candidates piled up thousands of votes across the city but failed to win a single seat.

While the much talked-about meltdown of the Liberal Democrats did not materialise, the party did lose three councillors to Labour.

It was a good night for the Conservatives, who picked up two seats and lost none.

The biggest scalp of the night saw Labour’s Steve Bedser, cabinet member for health and wellbeing, lose by 115 votes in Kings Norton to Conservative Simon Jevon.

In Shard End, John Cotton, cabinet member for social cohesion, managed to scrape home by 37 votes, with Ukip in second place.

And in Kingstanding, Tory candidate Ron Storer beat Labour group secretary Des Hughes by 32 votes. Storer’s victory means that the Conservatives now have two of the three seats in what was until recently a rock-solid Labour ward.

Labour came nowhere near winning a target seat in Weoley, which was easily held by Tory councillor Peter Douglas Osborn with a 507 vote majority. In 2010, Cllr Douglas Osborn won by just two votes.

In Bournville, another seat that Labour might have won, Tory Rob Sealey held on by 754 votes.

Deputy Tory group leader Robert Alden won easily in Erdington, beating Labour by almost 1,000 votes.

He was joined by father John Alden, who won in Harborne for the Tories. Labour had been successful in the ward at the past two elections.

There was good news for Labour in Hall Green where Kerry Jenkins beat Lib Dem councillor Paula Hall and in Mosley and Kings Heath where Lib Dem Ernie Hendricks lost to Labour’s Claire Spencer.

Labour also took Selly Oak from the Lib Dems by less than 80 votes.

In the Tory heartland of Sutton Vesey, Labour came a close second cutting the Conservative majority to less than 300 votes.

In the Yardley constituency, the Liberal Democrats held on to all four wards they were defending, including Acocks Green and South Yardley, which Labour had won at the past two elections.

Labour’s hefty majority on the council was never likely to be under threat. The party went into the elections with 76 seats, against 28 for the Conservatives and 15 for the Liberal Democrats.

The new makeup of the council is Labour 77, Conservative 31, Liberal Democrat 12.

The elections were fought against a backdrop of savage spending cuts, with almost £100 million being removed from the council budget this year. But the Tory and Lib Dem campaigns were largely focused on the so-called garden tax – a £35 annual charge imposed by the council for collecting green waste from householders.

Officials downplayed the Labour’s hopes, pointing out that the seats being contested were last fought in 2010, a year of record achievement for Labour. There will, however, have been some disappointment at the relatively lacklustre performance and the results may put pressure on council leader Sir Albert Bore who faces a challenge to his leadership on May 31 from Cllr John Clancy.

Sir Albert remained upbeat, insisting that the results were “broadly what I expected”.

He added: “There was always going to be, at the most, only two or three gains for us.

“We didn’t know what Ukip was going to do, and I think we should all be concerned about what’s happened there. The Tories should certainly be concerned.”

The first result of the night set what was to become a pattern. Labour councillor Ian Cruise held on in Longbridge with a majority of just 71. Ukip polled 1,544 votes to take third place, just behind the Tories. In 2012, Ukip managed only 307 votes in the same seat.

In Sheldon, the Liberal Democrat heartland, Ukip polled 1.262 votes to come second behind veteran Lib Dem councillor Mike Ward with 2,750 votes.

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