LABOUR held off multiple challenges in Newcastle’s local elections to maintain a dominant majority on the council, after a stormy few months for the party.

Just one seat changed hands in the city on election night, with the Lib Dems claiming a red seat in the hotly-contested Ouseburn by a margin of only 25 votes.

But Labour successfully survived challenges in several other key wards across Newcastle to make it a happy night for the ruling group and its new leader Nick Kemp, who is set to take charge of the council after the long-serving Nick Forbes was ousted earlier this year amid a bitter party split.

Read more: Election 2022 LIVE: Results in North East and North Yorkshire

Ouseburn is renowned as an extremely tight swing ward and so it proved again this year, as Liberal Democrat Mike Cookson edged out Labour cabinet member Paula Holland to win. He follows in the footsteps of his father, former lord mayor Mike Cookson, by claiming a seat on the council.

North Jesmond also produced a close race between the city’s two main parties, Stella Postlethwaite holding on for Labour with a margin of 40.

Labour also held seats in the outer west ward of Lemington, as well as Denton and Westerhope, both areas where they lost to the Newcastle Independents party in 2021.

But the biggest relief for Labour came in a hard-fought battle in West Fenham, which saw deputy council leader Karen Kilgour prevail after an anxious wait for the last result declared shortly after 2am.

She finished almost 200 votes ahead of Lib Dem PJ Morrissey, with Tay Pitman, who held high hopes of becoming the city’s first Green councillor, in third.

Joyce McCarty was re-elected for Labour in Wingrove with a huge majority of more than 1,200 – despite being suspended by the party over allegations of a ‘Muslim plot’ to oust Coun Forbes. Neither the departing council leader nor his former deputy were present at the count, held at Northumbria University’s Sport Central.

Read more: Hartlepool: Conservatives and Labour win seats

The Conservative Party’s 30-year wait for an election win in Newcastle goes on. They had been hopeful that retired GP Doc Anand would be successful in Gosforth, but he finished more than 300 votes behind Lib Dem incumbent Colin Ferguson.

Independent councillor Marc Donnelly was re-elected in Chapel with an astonishing 85% of the vote, 3,434 ballots in total, maintaining his iron grip on the outer west ward.

Coun Kemp, who must be reconfirmed as Labour’s leader in Newcastle next week before taking over as council leader later in May, said he was “devastated” to lose Coun Holland but that an otherwise positive set of results “demonstrates that Labour means business, that we are here for the whole city”.

He has promised a wholesale review of council services and a shift in focus away from the city centre, after narrowly beating Clare Penny-Evans in the race to succeed his rival Coun Forbes in March.

He told the Local Democracy Reporting Service after the election count: “I am not going to take credit for it, we had a group of amazing candidates running brilliant campaigns.

“My view is that it is a reset opportunity [for the council]. The victories help that opportunity, but now is time to get on and focus on delivering for Newcastle.”

Lib Dem opposition leader Nick Cott was happy with his party’s performance despite only gaining a single seat and repeated his prediction that they can regain control of the council in the coming years, having previously run the authority from 2004 to 2011.

He said: “These results confirm that we are the challengers to Labour and we have to put them on notice and say we are going to take control of the council at some point. I think the residents of the city deserve a change.”

Jason Smith, leader of the Newcastle Independents, put their inability to make further gains down to Labour turning the outer west races into a “national campaign rather than a local election based on their record”.

With just one seat changing hands, the makeup of the city council is now: Labour with 51 seats, 21 Lib Dems, three Newcastle Independents, and three independents. The turnout was 36.4%.

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