LABOUR picked up its first council seats in eight years as a red tide swept Halton in the local Government Elections.
In what party chief Tony McDermott said was a ‘an endorsement’ of his party’s running of the borough, Labour seized five new seats, including the Conservative strongholds of Farnworth and Birchfield in Widnes.
The party also took back Ditton from the Tories, and picked up Mersey and Norton North from the Liberal Democrats in Runcorn.
They were the first Labour gains in Halton since 2002, when Mike Wharton took Hale from an independent, and were reflective of a general surge in Labour party support at council level across the North West – despite the party’s floundering national fortunes.
The only dark spot for the party was the loss of Kingsway in Widnes to the Liberal Democrats, after a paperwork mistake left the party unable to defend what is regarded as a safe seat.
Elsewhere, there was to be no comeback for Labour veteran Arthur Cole, who was standing in the Mersey ward.
Mr Cole unexpectedly lost his Castlefields seat in 2007’s elections – a seat he had held for 35 years.
Mike Fry, Birchfield’s new Labour councillor, said: “I know lots of people on the Upton Rocks estate and just asked them to vote for me.
“There are no amenities there, no bus service, no shops, no doctor and no schools, so that’s what I’m going to be looking at first.”
Farnworth newcomer Cllr Andrew MacManus – who grabbed the seat from six-year incumbent Phil Drakely – said: “I’m delighted and privileged.
“I’ve lived in Farnworth for a long time and prepared a good and honest leaflet campaign, delivering them to every home in the ward.”
Tony McDermott was delighted with the result.
He said: “I think it’s recognition of the hard work we’ve put in and shows that the people of Halton don’t want to break up a winning team.”