Labour lost its majority on the Wirral last night in what turned into a dreadful Local Election for the party, as it lost three of its seats to the Conservatives and Greens.
Ahead of Thursday’s election, the former ruling group needed to drop just a single seat to lose control of Wirral Council, and the night went from bad to worse for them, with two cabinet members ousted.
A total of 22 seats were up for election, one in each council ward, with Labour losing crucial votes in Birkenhead and Tranmere, Pensby and Thingwall, and Prenton. The party did manage to salvage a seat in Rock Ferry, meaning an overall reduction of two.
Wirral Council is now hung, and will go into No Overall Control after the count at Bidston Tennis Centre, on a night which was most successful for the Greens – who snatched two seats from the Labour group in Prenton and Birkenhead and Tranmere.
In terms of Prenton, Chris Cooke will be the new councillor, while in Birkenhead and Tranmere – Phil Davies’ former ward, Steve Hayes is the new elected member.
Green Party leader, Cllr Pat Cleary said his now three-strong party was “made up”, adding: “This is a sea change in fortunes for the Green Party. It reflects a decade of hard work and is the moment that we have become truly established as a real presence and a real force on Wirral Council.”
The turnout was 37%, with the Tories also claiming victory on a night that saw them gain a single seat.
That seat was Pensby and Thingwall, where a shock result meant cabinet member Phillip Brightmore lost to Conservative candidate Mike Collins by a majority of around 500.
Group leader Cllr Ian Lewis said: “Tonight was a great night for the Conservatives on Wirral. We set out to stop a Militant Labour Party, and we’ve also seen Greens gain seats, the Liberal Democrats gain seats and of course our fantastic win in Pensby.
“Tonight we have 66 councillors who have equal power in the council chamber so the one-party state is over and whoever leads this council is obliged to work with all parties to ensure all views of people of Wirral are reflected in decisions we take.”
It’s not known exactly what will happen next, but Labour meetings will take place over the weekend, after which the party is expected to announce either Cllrs Anita Leech, Pat Hackett or Tony Norbury as the new leader. A deal will then be thrashed out with the other parties as to how the council is governed.
Phil Davies is still technically leader of the authority until the annual meeting later this month.
Mr Davies, who announced last year he would not stand for re-election, said: “I’m disappointed with the outcome tonight and the loss of two talented councillors and cabinet members in Angie Davies and Phill Brightmore.
“I think they were phenomenally effective members and I’ll be sorry to see them go.”
It’s believed Labour lost over 8,000 votes in total compared to last year’s election, with the party having won 39 in 2018 – seven more than the total tonight. The party’s lost vote share is also estimated at 14%.
Mr Davies added: “I’m very disappointed as we are now in a No Overall Control situation.”
Despite Labour’s shocking night, it did manage to regain Rock Ferry from the Independent Group – ex Wirral Council leader Yvonne Nolan with a marginal win over Independent Chris Meaden, who quit Labour earlier this year.
The Liberal Democrats also increased their seat share from five to six – taking Oxton from Independent Paul Doughty, who recently quit the Labour Party.
The results now mean Labour has 32 councillors – two short of a majority, the Tories have 22, Liberal Democrats six, the Independents have three, and the Green Party also have three.
Tom Houghton – Local Democracy Reporter (more here).