A councillor vying to become the next leader of St Helens Council has called Labour’s performance at the local elections a “wake-up call” for the party.
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.
In another shock result, the Liberal Democrats gained Newton, with David Smith defeating Labour’s Fiona Ruddy.
Despite the losses, Labour managed to hold on to 10 seats and still has a clear majority.
It was also a comfortable victory for Labour’s David Baines in Windle.
Coun Baines is one of four councillors who have put themselves forward to replace current council leader Derek Long, who announced he would “step aside” following the elections.
He said that despite the losses, the fact Labour held 10 seats was an indication that residents of the borough still have confidence in the party.
“It’s a night of mixed emotions for the Labour Party,” Coun Baines said.
“I think it’s a wake-up call. I think we need to listen carefully to what residents are telling us across the borough.
“We’ve lost four seats, which obviously isn’t good enough. Haydock was particularly upsetting for me because I’m a Yicker.
“I grew up in Haydock, my family still live in Haydock, so that’s a particularly tough one to take.
“But all that being said, we’ve got 10 out of 16 seats that we’ve won, with majorities in all those, so we still control the council.
“Across the borough it’s a vote of confidence in what we’re doing, but all that said, there is work to do, clearly.”
Coun Baines believes a combination of local and national issues contributed to the losses, including a backlash over the Local Plan and the public’s growing frustrations over Brexit.
The Labour councillor said there are “lessons to learn” and said the party need to make sure it learns the right ones.
“I would hope we can work to start winning those seats back,” Coun Baines said.
“I think what we need to do is listen to our communities and start representing our communities again.
“We need to start working together for the good of the borough, for the good of the communities that we serve, with Labour values.
“We’re a Labour council and we need to start sharing those values and shouting about the good things that we’re doing and making some much-needed progress on big things that residents have been crying out for years, like the town centre, like decent affordable housing and jobs.
“We need to see progress on those things.”
Now the election is out of the way, Coun Baines will turn his attention to the Labour group’s leadership contest set for next Tuesday.
He will be going up against Marlene Quinn, Jeanie Bell and John Wiseman.
Coun Baines said: “There are four good candidates for that role.
“It is something I’m keen to do but obviously that’s an internal Labour Party matter.”