LABOUR are preparing to take back control of Newcastle City Council after voters kicked out 10 Liberal Democrat councillors.
Lib Dems in the city called on Nick Clegg to “flex his muscles” and stand up for the party after its meltdown saw an 11% swing to Labour and loss of the flagship council after seven years.
Ousted council leader David Faulkner was among many warning that the city would be lost to the party until Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg does more for the Liberals while in power.
Mr Faulkner said: “There are three distinct factors in Newcastle which contributed to this. The first is that it is a city with a very large number of people in the public sector, and they have been concerned for their jobs.
“Second, it is a city with high levels of deprivation, with people worried about benefit cuts. And, of course, it is a city with a disproportionate number of students, and those are the three groups which are most affected by the more painful policies of the coalition Government.
“And we have been punished for our association with those issues.
“A lot of people told us they liked what we have done in the city but they will not vote for us because of what has happened nationally.
“We are in a city where Conservative is almost a dirty word and our association with that has not helped us.
“We are out of power until the coalition delivers better for the North East. We have to fight for Liberal Democrat values in the coalition, we need to see Nick Clegg flex his muscles in the coalition, we need to rock the boat a little and show more of what we can do in the coalition.
“We have 60% of our manifesto in the coalition agreement, but it is clear that on the really big issue, the speed of the cuts, people are unhappy about the way that is happening.
“I have mentioned that several times, to anyone who has asked me the question. I have said it to Nick Clegg several times privately and I have told Danny Alexander and I have told Vince Cable.”
Mr Faulkner says he intends to stay on as Lib Dem group leader once the official handover takes place on May 25.
Newcastle Labour group leader Nick Forbes, who is to be confirmed as council leader later this month, insisted the change was not just a protest vote against the coalition.
Mr Forbes said: “This was a stunning Labour victory fuelled by extremely hard work over the last year by hundreds of local volunteers.
“People have told us time and time again that they feel let down by the coalition and have sent the Lib Dems a clear message today.
“The Lib Dems clearly had an ineffective voice in Government, because the Lib Dems did not listen to them. I will be working with colleagues across the region to put forward our case.”
Labour gained seats in North Heaton, South Jesmond, Ouseburn, Newburn, Lemington, Fenham, Fawdon, Denton, Blakelaw and Walkergate.
Pauline Allen, cabinet member for culture, leisure and customer services, was among the Lib Dems losing their seats.
THE Green party came out on top in a Northumberland town’s poll.
Green candidate Rachael Roberts claimed the most votes in Thursday’s Alnwick Town Council by-election, with 531.
Three other candidates were elected, Conservative Bruce Hewison with 481, independent James Thompson, 460 and Liberal Democrat Jilly Bell, 410.
SOUTH Shields MP David Miliband showed his support for Labour candidates in person as they stormed to victory across South Tyneside.
The party gained three seats in Cleadon and East Boldon, West Park and Hebburn North, taking 15 of the 18 seats up for grabs.
Labour took one seat each from the Tories, Lib Dems and Independents, and now has 39 councillors in all, with 13 independents, one Conservative and one Lib Dem.
Mr Miliband said: “This has been a solid Labour seat for some time. They have provided a good value and quality service to the people here.
“It’s clear as well the Tories are not very popular here. In fact because of that, they don’t even call themselves Tories.”
After holding his seat by a 1,000-vote majority, delighted Labour leader of the council, Iain Malcolm spoke of the reasons for the party’s success in the area.
He said: “I think voters have reacted against the cuts but as well as that, people from South Tyneside also support Labour and our regeneration programme.”
Independent leader of the opposition George Elsom said: “The opposition have been really badly beaten here. It’s been a terrible night.”
Katie Oakes and Tom White
LIBERAL Democrats in Gateshead blamed decisions taken by their colleagues in the national coalition after they lost four seats to Labour.
Group leader Noel Rippeth said voters had turned their back on the party because of cuts partly implemented by their colleagues at Westminster.
Coun Rippeth said: “We have lost some good colleagues but we are determined to soldier on. The result in Gateshead mirrors the national picture.”
The Winlaton and High Spen, Pelaw and Heworth, Ryton, Crookhill and Stella and Crawcrook and Greenside wards all transferred to Labour.
Labour council leader Mick Henry said the opposition in Gateshead had failed to stand up to the coalition government in the way that outgoing Newcastle Council leader David Faulkner had.
Coun Henry said: “Lib Dem councillors have not been challenging the coalition enough on things like cuts to Building Schools for the Future and tuition fees.
“I genuinely think that what has happened is that they have taken the wrong decisions. They should have joined with us in challenging things at a national level.”
Labour’s victories took its overall total to 49, with 16 Lib Dems and one Liberal. There are no Tories on the council.
LABOUR strengthened its hold on Sunderland City Council after taking four Conservative seats.
Party members were in a celebratory mood as they received the results for St Chad’s, St Peter’s, Washington East and Washington South with loud cheers.
Labour now holds 56 seats at Sunderland City Council, while Conservatives have 14 and Liberal Democrats one.
In keeping with tradition, Sunderland won the race to announce the results by calling it a night at 12.15am.
As his party snatched the final seat from the Conservatives Coun Paul Watson said: “We weren’t predicting a swing of that magnitude. We were quietly confident but we’ve done better than we expected.”
The Liberal Democrats fared poorly and won only 46 votes in the Doxford ward.
Conservative councillor Anthony Morrissey said: “Losing seats to Labour is an occupational hazard. We’ve been bruised and bloodied but it could have been worse.
“It’s a happier night for Conservatives than Liberals considering that at one time they were the second party. We are still second in Sunderland.”
Nick Greaves and Marion Sauvebois