LABOUR comfortably held onto its majority in Hartlepool and the Liberal Democrats lost their voice as just one in four of the electorate bothered to vote.
The political map was shaken up in Hartlepool but the overall picture remained the same as almost two thirds of the seats went to Labour during last night’s election.
The number of wards had been cut from 17 to 11 and boundaries redrawn across the town with the number of councillors being slashed from 47 to 33.
Labour won 21 of the new posts while the Lib Dems lost both of their seats and the Conservatives held three seats, all in the Rural West ward.
Newly formed party Putting Hartlepool First picked up four seats, three in Fens and Rossmere.
There were cheers and tears as the results were announced in the bustling Mill House Leisure Centre, but that was in stark contrast to how quiet the polling stations had been throughout Thursday.
Only 26.5 per cent of those registered to vote took part in the all-out election, even lower than last year’s disappointing total of 31.1 per cent.
Nationally, Labour were on course to make big gains against the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats.
Hartlepool’s Labour MP Iain Wright said at the beginning of the night that he would have been happy with 19 seats so was delighted with the result, saying it shows a “backlash against the coalition Government’s cutbacks”.
He added: “There is no doubting that things will get harder, this is just the beginning of the Government’s plans.
“There’s a clear message that the Government needs to change direction. There needs to be a clear strategy for jobs and growth, particularly on youth unemployment in Hartlepool.”
Labour Group leader, Councillor Ged Hall, who was re-elected in the Burn Valley ward, added: “These results show that if you do the hard work and work with and for residents you get your just rewards.”
Labour had held 29 of the 48 seats before the boundary changes with 12 independent, four Conservative and two Lib Dem plus Mayor Stuart Drummond, whose position was not up for election this year.
Councillor Ray Wells, leader of the town’s Conservatives who was re-elected in the Rural West ward, said that despite his party losing a seat he was “absolutely delighted” to increase their majority within the council due to the reduction in numbers.
Coun Wells said: “Rural West is the largest in the town and it is going to be a massive responsibility to look after the electorate who put their trust in us.
“We look forward to the challenge and hope that we can serve the new areas with the same passion and commitment as the residents of the former Park Ward.”
In each ward, the councillor with the highest number of votes is elected for a four-year term until 2016.
The person with the second highest is elected for three years until 2015, and the third highest for two years until 2014.
The major electoral shake-up was led by the Local Government Boundary Commission.
There are now a total of 34 seats, 33 councillors plus Mayor Drummond.
Meanwhile, council chiefs have praised the dedicated staff for their efforts.
Peter Devlin, the council’s returning officer, said: “I trust that this election, which was important for Hartlepool Borough in that it was an all-out election, showed the professionalism and conscientious behaviour of all the election staff.”
In total there were 56 polling stations, open from 7am to 10pm, staffed by 117 people with around 80 counters at the count.
Click the link for live video, Twitter feeds, pictures and reaction from the count.