A 'night of mixed emotions' for St Helens Council's outgoing leader

St Helens Council leader Derek Long
St Helens Council leader Derek Long
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The government’s failure to sort out Brexit has caused Labour to lose four seats at the local elections, the leader of St Helens Council has said.

Across the country Labour and the Conservatives have faced a backlash at the polls, with smaller parties and independents winning a raft of seats.

The Liberal Democrats have also had a resurgence, wrestling control of several councils across England.

In St Helens, the ruling Labour group lost Haydock and Bold to the Green Party and Rainhill to independent Donna Greaves, with green belt issues key in all three wards.

And in another shock, the Liberal Democrats wrestled control of Newton, with David Smith defeating Labour’s Fiona Ruddy by almost 300 votes.

Despite the losses, Labour managed to hold on to 10 seats and welcomed three new councillors in Pam Howard (Earlestown), Bisi Osundeko (Parr) and Robyn Hattersley (Thatto Heath).

St Helens Council leader Derek Long, who will be stepping down as leader next week, described the elections as a “night of mixed emotions”.

Coun Long said: “Three great new women councillors are joining our ranks in Pam Howard, Bisi Osundeko and Robyn Hattersley.

“But the government’s failure to sort out the Brexit mess has hit ruling Labour and Tory votes across the country.

“So, the council will be the poorer for the loss of several great Labour candidates due to that frustration.”

Coun Osundeko had a comfortable victory in Parr, albeit with a turnout of 18 per cent, securing 919 votes.

The closest candidate was Tom Armstrong for the Greens.

But Coun Osundeko admitted feeling the growing frustrations of the public during her campaign trail.

“People really want to be listened to,” Coun Osundeko said.

“People just want to have leaders who are there for them, at their doorsteps, talking to them and listening to them.

“And I think it’s just opened my heart to the fact that there are issues that we really need to with.

“There’s so many things, we just have to listen and be there for them.”

Now that the elections are over, Labour councillors will now turn their attention to deciding who will lead the council over the coming year.

This was after Coun Long made the shock announcement last week that he would “step aside” as leader following the local elections.

Councillors Marlene Quinn, David Baines, Jeanie Bell and John Wiseman have all put themselves forward.

The group are set to take a vote on the matter next week.

“We are a strong party locally because we always reflect upon what the voters say,” Coun Long said.

“I’m sure our next leader will continue that process to make sure we deliver the great process of transformation we have started.”