Labour held onto Sandwell council in a bitter struggle against the Conservatives in this year’s local election.
But compared with the last local election, held in 2018, the Conservatives gained three seats, while Labour lost three.
It means Labour now has 61 seats in the council. The Conservatives have 10 seats, while there is one seat for the independent councillor.
Talk of low turnout dominated conversations at the count, held at Tipton Sports Academy overnight. Out of 233,000 people who were eligible to vote in Sandwell, only 61,000 people cast their ballot. The eligible electorate for this year’s election was 26.12%, slightly higher than in 2021 with 24.97%.
All wards within Sandwell had a turnout lower than 50% – a worry for both Labour and Conservatives. The highest turnout was in St Paul’s ward, located in Smethwick, at 3,470, or 32.94% of the vote.
The highest percentage of votes cast was in Abbey, situated in Bearwood, with 33.13% – a turnout of 2,809. The Labour candidate Bob Piper was re-elected with 2,328 votes.
Who won which seat?
The first seat declared was West Bromwich Central, with Liam Preece winning the ward with 1,984 votes against the Conservatives Aran Singh Duggal, who placed 857 votes.
When taking this year’s local election results outright, Labour gained two seats in Great Bridge and Greets Green with Lyng. Both seats were highly contested, with the Great Bridge seat won by just 56 votes.
The Conservatives gained two seats in Sandwell: Charlemont with Grove Vale and Princes End. The former was won by Les Trumpeter with a majority of 350 votes. David Wilkes won Princes End by just 31 votes, taking the seat from Jenny Chidley.
Notable seats included Hateley Heath and Blackheath, where veteran Labour councillors Paul Moore and Danny Millard retained their seats.
Ian Chambers, the Labour councillors who defected to the party from the Conservatives, won his seat by 373 votes.
Steve Melia, the Labour councillor who was found guilty of assault this year, retained his seat.
The last seat to declare, in his speech councillor Melia said it was “worth the wait”.
He said: “Democracy won in the end. I was, and still am, the best candidate contrary to lies and slurs. Mr Jones [the Conservative candidate] asked for recount after recount. And I got a better result. Unbelievable.
“I will always be out and about in the ward day in and day out throughout the year.”
What has the Leader of Sandwell Council said about the result?
Kerrie Carmichael, Leader of Sandwell Council, said she was ‘delighted’ at the results.
Speaking to reporters, she said the election was dominated by national issues, with the cost of living crisis and numerous Partygate scandals strong on the doorstep. “We’ve spoken to the opposition already about what we can do to help people”, she said.
When asked about the recently appointed government commissioners that have entered Sandwell, she said: “I don’t see the chaos that other people see. The government has sent in the commissioners, but that is not what the auditors wanted, and the Local Government Association gave us a cracking peer review, so make of that what you will.
“We’ve got an improvement plan in place, which we are working on. We already made many progresses, and we’re working solidly.”
Local Conservatives distance themselves from Boris Johnson
The decision of Sandwell voters to cast their ballot for Labour this year was a flaring gun against the cost of living crisis and renewed scrutiny over Partygate, despite government commissioners entering the council in March on Sandwell Labour’s watch.
The vote for Labour here in the Black Country was seen as a ‘sheer drop’ for the Conservatives, who gained eight councillors in last year’s local election. The party were stylised as a real opposition within Sandwell council’s chambers for the first time in decades.
It was a long night for the party, with some candidates billing themselves as “local Conservatives” on the ballot to distance themselves from Westminster and Boris Johnson.
One Conservative source told the Local Democracy Reporting Service that many Conservative voters in the region had their decision torn.
They said: “During our campaign, a lot of voters appreciated the hard work we are doing against some of the alleged financial mismanagement and corruption against Sandwell Labour.
“But they would tell us how bad Boris Johnson was, and why if they voted for us it would send a message to Boris that everything is OK, when it actually isn’t.”
Archer Williams, the interim leader for the Sandwell Conservatives, said his party wanted to focus on local issues, and deflected questions about the Partygate scandal.
“There are so many issues in Sandwell. We just want to focus on the local issues where we can make a real difference. It’s not my place, really, to comment on what is going on nationally.”
A message from the editor:
Thank you for reading. BirminghamWorld is Birmingham’s latest news website, championing everything that is great about our city - reporting on news, lifestyle and sport. We want to start a community among our readers, so please follow us on Facebook,Twitter and Instagram, and keep the conversation going.