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Local Elections: A Night To Forget For Labour As They Lose Control Of Bolton Council

Friday, May 3rd, 2019 6:48am

By Joseph Timan - Local Democracy Reporter

Labour have suffered a devastating defeat at this year's local elections, leaving no party in control of the council this morning.

The ruling group lost seven seats last night with more than half taken by hyper-local parties.

Newcomers Horwich and Blackrod First Independents snapped up two seats from Labour as did Farnworth and Kearsley First who now have five councillors.

The Tories finished with only one more councillor overall but could end up running Bolton Council for the first time in nearly 40 years.

Both parties will now have to work with other groups in a coalition if they want to be in charge.

Council leader Linda Thomas told The Bolton News she was very disappointed with the result.

She said: "The people of Bolton have spoken. They are very angry with the government, with austerity, and they are very angry with us as well because we can’t deliver what they want. At this moment in time though, until we change the government, any party in Bolton is going to find it difficult to deliver what the people really want.”

Labour now have 23 seats out of possible 60, although Cllr Debbie Newall has now said that she will rejoin the party, adding another councillor to the group.

But Cllr Thomas, who successfully defended her seat in Halliwell, said that the Conservatives, who now have 20 councillors, did not have a "brilliant" night themselves.

Conservatives took Labour seats in Hulton and Breightmet, ousting Labour veteran John Byrne, but lost a councillor in Westhoughton to the Lib Dems.

Tory leader David Greenhalgh expressed his sadness of losing Zoe Kirk-Robinson as a councillor but said his party have had to work hard even for a single net gain.

He said: “Where we fight Labour, we are winning and we’re gaining and we’re gaining ground on them in some of their seats that they’ve taken for granted for years. And the message tonight is one that Bolton residents are fed up with the way Labour has run this town and they’ve said enough is enough."

Farnworth and Kearsley First won two seats this year but Labour councillor Sue Haworth clung onto her seat in Harper Green.

There are now no Labour councillors in Farnworth and Kearsley and the hyper-local party represent every seat in Farnworth.

Paul Heslop won a whopping 2,376 votes in Kearsley, giving him the third biggest majority on the night.

But he says that winning in Farnworth, where Lisa Weatherby beat Labour incumbent Jean Gillies by 593 votes, was the biggest victory for the party.

Cllr Weatherby said: “The people of Farnworth have spoken out. They’ve had enough. They’ve had enough of everything being taken away from them and it’s time we fought back for things that belong to Farnworth.”

Newly-formed Horwich and Blackrod First Independents also won in two wards last night where their candidates beat Labour's Stephen Pickup and Joyce Kellet.

Horwich town mayor Peter Wright won in Horwich and Blackrod while party leader Marie Brady won in Horwich North East where incumbent Joyce Kellet came third.

The Lib Dems also had a successful night as their group doubled in size with six councillors.

They took both seats in Westhoughton, removing executive cabinet member for highways and transport David Chadwick from power.

A total of three new Lib Dem councillors were elected: Garry Veevers in Smithills, Deidrie McGeown in Westhoughton South and Bernadette Eckersley-Fallon in Westhoughton North and Chew Moor.


Meanwhile, UKIP Leader Sean Hornby successfully defended his seat in Little Lever and Darcy Lever.

Smaller parties will be the kingmakers now as Labour and the Conservatives try to make coalition agreements with them in the coming days.

Lib Dem leader Roger Hayes said that informal talks have already taken place.

He said: "We will talk to both the major parties, but we will not be looking for positions ourselves, we’ll be looking for delivering for our voters in our areas. There are things we want and things that we may not. We’re prepared to talk and compromise and see what we can get."

The overall turnout was slightly higher than last year at 36.86 per cent.

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