THE Labour Group has maintained its control of Hartlepool Borough Council on a dramatic election night which also saw UKIP snatch two seats.
Labour won six out of the 11 wards that were up for grabs but it was the emergence of UKIP that caught the eye, winning the Jesmond ward from Labour by just two votes – after five recounts had taken place.
It was a dramatic night inside the Mill House Leisure Centre, in Raby Road, but the result means Labour maintain their 19 out of 33 seats on Hartlepool Council and overall control.
While Labour leaders maintained it was “business as usual”, the town’s UKIP leaders expressed their delight at securing two seats.
Council leader Christopher Akers-Belcher said: “I am delighted that we have managed to maintain the same number of councillors and overall control of the council.
“The make-up of the council has changed slightly but I’m sure everybody will be working together to ensure Hartlepool moves forward.
“I’m really confident we can all work together and it is not the first time we have had UKIP councillors on Hartlepool Council, it seems to go in cycles.”
Coun Akers-Belcher also welcomed the two new Labour councillors, Stephen Thomas (De Bruce Ward) and Alan Clark (Fens and Rossmere Ward).
The council leader added: “They have both worked incredibly hard and both ran very clean, competitive campaigns.
“I’d like to thank everybody for their support.”
Hartlepool MP Iain Wright said: “It is very much as we were, we gained a ward and lost a ward.
“We have a fantastic new councillor in Alan Clark but we are sad to lose Linda Shields, who has been an excellent councillor.
“Labour is still running the council and in many respects the results were as expected.”
Mr Wright believed UKIP had benefitted from a loss of support for the independent candidates that were standing.
While UKIP won the Jesmond and Seaton wards with new members George Springer and Tom Hind set to take their places inside the council chamber, Putting Hartlepool First’s David Riddle took the Hart Ward and Conservative councillor Brenda Loynes held onto the Rural West seat.
Independent candidate John Lauderdale won the Burn Valley Ward with 35 per cent of the vote.
While Labour’s Linda Shields lost the Jesmond Ward, they did win Fens and Rossmere with Alan Clark a new face inside the council. Coun Clark ousted long-standing councillor Alison Lilley, who represented the Putting Hartlepool First group.
Conservative group leader Ray Martin-Wells said: “We are delighted with the results and we have actually increased our share of the votes since 2012.
“But I am not surprised that UKIP have taken such strides.”
Putting Hartlepool First spokesman, councillor Geoff Lilley said: “It has been a very mixed night, but I would like to thank all those that supported Putting Hartlepool First.
“We must remember that we have only been going for two years.”
The wet weather yesterday morning was partially blamed for a poor turnout of just 27.22 per cent – but that was still higher than the 26 per cent that voted back in 2012.
The first ballot boxes arrived shortly after 10pm and after a couple of hours of counting and verifying the final results were read out by returning officer Peter Devlin at 1.30am.