Will Greens hold the balance of power in Bradford?

9:01am Monday 9th May 2011

By Ben Barnett

by Ben Barnett and Clive White T&A Reporters Bradford’s Labour Group edged closer to majority control of the local authority by clinching five more seats in the district elections.

Sit-down talks between Bradford Council’s Labour leadership and the other political parties are due to take place over the coming days in a bid to find common ground and form a working majority to lead the district.

It is possible that the Labour group, which now holds 44 of the 90 seats on the Council, may look to form a close alliance with the Green Party, which could tip the balance with the three seats it currently holds.

Alternatively, Labour may look to continue working closely with the Liberal Democrat group.

Ballot box results were declared, starting at around 5am, following a delay in Wakefield where the regional Alternative Voting system referendum ballot papers had to be verified first.

Labour’s gains came in Bowling and Barkerend and Keighley Central wards, where they took seats previously held by the Conservative Group. Liberal Democrat seats in Manningham and Windhill and Wrose also fell to Labour. National results indicated that as many as 300 Lib Dem councillors have lost their seats.

In another local Lib Dem blow, the Eccleshill seat, vacated by retired Lib Dem councillor Carol Beardmore, was also taken by Labour.

High-profile councillors who lost their seats included Conservatives, the Deputy Lord Mayor of Bradford, Mohammed Jamil, and long-standing Keighley Central councillor Zafar Ali – the latter after a tense 45-minute re-count which eventually saw Labour’s Kaneez Akhtar succeed with a narrow 78 majority.

Labour now holds 44 seats on Bradford Council, the Tories 29, the Lib Dems 11, the Green Party three, the British National Party two and one Independent, and leaves the district with another hung council.

Labour group leader Councillor Ian Greenwood said: “I’m extremely pleased with the results. We have made a number of gains and I believe there is an element of punishment of the Conservatives and particularly the Liberals for the Coalition.

“Clearly the electorate believe they have gone too fast in their cuts and have treated Bradford and other major urban areas unfairly.”

He said the options for the Labour Group were simple.

“It’s entirely sensible to speak to the other groups and look to determine what areas of common ground exist so we can move forward for the good of the district.”

Appraising the results, Coun Jeanette Sunderland, leader of the Lib Dem group, said: “We managed to buck the national trend and won the only by-election in the country for the Lib Dems but, of course, I’m disappointed in the national result.

“We won in Bradford East but lost in Manningham and Windhill and Wrose which is a disappointment because some very hard working councillors have lost their seats in an election fought on misunderstandings and lies on national policy.”

She said her group would talk to Labour to explore common ground.

Coun Kevin Warnes, deputy leader of the Council’s Green Party, said: “If we can be reassured that our core interests, for example driving down the Council’s energy bills and making sure services for the most vulnerable residents are protected, then absolutely, there are definitely possibilities for working with other groups and clearly Labour is in the lead.”

Conservative group leader Anne Hawkesworth said: “It is obviously disappointing to lose two seats. Having said that, the Conservative votes throughout the rest of the district held up very well.

“Some of the figures, in Shipley for example, were very, very good.

“We are very disappointed to lose the two councillors who have both been exceptionally good councillors. We will seriously miss the two councillors but wheels do turn, the political wheel turns. At 29 we are in no way disheartened, we are still here, raring to go to represent the residents of Bradford district.”

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