Labour maintain grip on St Helens town hall (updated)

Jubilant Labour councillors celebrate after their comprehensive victory in the local elections
Jubilant Labour councillors celebrate after their comprehensive victory in the local elections
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Labour has maintained its near-stranglehold on local politics in St Helens claiming all but two of the seats up for grabs in Thursday’s elections.

The party kept its overwhelming majority in the council chamber following a protracted count which finished at around 3.30pm on Friday.

The make-up of the council remains the same: Labour (42), Liberal Democrats (3) and Conservatives (6).

Voters turned out in large numbers throughout the borough, with many wards recording turnouts of around 65 per cent.

Council leader and Labour group leader Barrie Grunewald said the results were a resounding endorsement of his party’s local efforts.

But he added: “It is a day of mixed emotions for us.

“Locally, this was a good result but nationally it has been bad day for working people in St Helens with the way things have gone nationally.

“But we’ve got two fantastic new MPs in Conor and Marie and I congratulate them.”

Labour stalwart Keith Roberts fought a fierce battle in Parr with popular ex-mayor and Ukip candidate John Beirne.

An at time tense campaign saw Coun Roberts seal a comprehensive victory.

He said: “There’s no personal animosity between us; but you would have to ask him why he decided to challenge me in Parr.

“But I love the people of Parr. They are my kind of people and I’m so happy to be representing them.”

Former council leader Brian Spencer’s bid to return to office ended with failure after he suffered a loss on his old stomping ground of Sutton.

But an ebullient Mr Sutton, who remains the local Lib Dem group’s chairman, said the party would bounce back.

“It was to be expected,” he said. “In the context of the past parliament this was a good result because we held our position.

“The last five years have been the road to hell and we’re there now.”

Mr Spencer headed a coalition with the local Tories until 2012 and has watched as his party’s grip on power slowly dwindled to its current position.

He said: “We’ve been made to pay for what has happened nationally but it’s not what we did in government but the fact that we were in government and who we were in government with that has done for us.

“But I have always said that it was the right thing to do and I stand by that.

“We move on now and we will be back, we will keep going.”

Coun Michael Haw held Eccleston for the Lib Dems, while Coun Allan Jones held Rainford for the Conservatives.

In the town centre ward, Coun Carole Ann Gill, who sparked controversy when she unseated the sitting councillor Geoff Almond, comfortably secured her seat.

The other story of the night was the relative success of Ukip and the Greens. Both parties fielded candidates in a majority of wards and attracted significant support.

And while neither came close to winning a spot on the council they will be buoyed by their success, with the Greens in particular winning a sizeable upsurge in support.