Labour sweep back to power

By Ian Dipple 04/05 Updated: 04/05 18:52

THE NEW leader of Redditch Borough Council has pledged to deliver on their promises as soon as possible after Labour were swept back to power.

Against a backdrop of growing unpopularity with the national coalition government the Tories saw a collapse in their support as Labour gained Winyates from the Liberal Democrats along with Batchley and Brockhill, Greenlands and the key seat of Matchborough from the Conservatives - which they won by just 90 votes.

It is enough to give them 15 seats - a majority of one - on the council and return them to power having lost control in 2008. With no borough council elections now until 2014, Labour have two years to deliver on key pledges such as restoring pre-9.30am bus travel for the elderly and disabled and creating more apprentices.

Coun Bill Hartnett, who now becomes the new council leader, said he believed their success was not just down to dissatisfaction with national politics but their promises had found favour with residents.

"We are here for Redditch and here for the people - we fought it on local issues and we'll have to deliver those now," he said.

"The hard work continues - I never stopped working for Redditch in control or in opposition. The first thing to do is to deliver our pledges.

"We'll have to wait and see how far the budget has been implemented and how many contracts have been signed, that will be one of my first tasks to see what we can deliver and how soon we can deliver it. It is affordable because it is published and been voted on so it depends what we can rectify."

But Conservative leader Carole Gandy said they were proud of what they had achieved in their four years in power and there was nothing more they could have done.

"If 46 people had voted Conservative instead of voting Labour we would of held the seat (Matchborough) but politics is what it is and you don't go into it if you are not prepared to accept there are going to be times you will be in favour and times when you're not and at the moment we're not and we've suffered for it," she said.

"I'm sad some good councillors have lost their seats through no fault of their own. We've worked really hard there isn't anything else we could have done.

"I think we've done some fantastic things in the last four years and I am just disappointed we are not going to be able to continue to do that for the next couple of years but we will be back.

"The challenge is to make sure Labour keep an eye on the finances. It's about protecting frontline services and making sure they don't just fritter it away which has been the case in the past."

It was another desperate day for the Liberal Democrats who lost their only councillor in Malcolm Hall and were shunned by voters across the borough, finishing last in three wards and joint third in another with The Green Party benefiting.

Mr Hall's defeat ends an 18 year presence for the Liberal Democrats on Redditch Borough Council, although he did take some heart from his own personal showing where he came second, beating the Conservatives into third.

He called for national party leader Nick Clegg to start being clearer with people about the difference the Liberal Democrats were making in the coalition.

"It is a tragedy in British politics that people relate local issues to the national situation. I don't understand why we are so unpopular at the moment nationally anyway because we are the good guys in the Government trying to stop the excesses of the Conservatives," he said.

I've worked hard in the constituency for 18 years, all of the other candidates were untried and untested and most of the electorate in Winyates know I work hard for the constituency and it's very disappointing.

"We need to keep the coalition together for the sake of the country but I don't think it does any harm at all to show where we disagree with the Tory aspects of the coalition and where we differ with strategy I want it known."

The other big story of the day was turnout with just 27.78 per cent of people bothering to vote.

Coun Gandy said it was a worrying trend all parties had to do more to tackle.

"We had three young people from the Maldives working with us here looking at how you run elections democratically. They are fighting tooth and nail for democracy and they just can't believe in a democratic country only 27 per cent of people would bother to vote it just doesn't make sense to them," she said.

"When I used to campaign in the 60s and 70s canvassing was difficult, people would shout at you. They don't now. People don't care anymore about their politics they care far more about their football team."

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