Sunderland safe seats “a cause for concern”

The Electoral Reform Society has raised concerns about local democracy and safe council seats in its review of the 2019 local elections.

The Electoral Reform Society has today (22nd August) published its review into local council elections which took place across the country on 2nd May.

The Society raises concerns that in almost half of councils, one party was able to win a majority of seats up for election with fewer than half the votes cast across the council area.

In Sunderland, 25 out of 75 councillor seats were up for election – one in each ward across Sunderland, Washington, Houghton and Hetton.

Despite this being Labour’s worst year since Sunderland Council was set up in 1973, the party still won half of councillors (48%) with only 32% of the votes cast across the city.

Liberal Democrats won 5 council seats (Doxford, Millfield & Thornholme, Pallion & Ford Estate, and two in Sandhill), with the Conservatives winning in 5 seats, UKIP on 3 and the Greens one.

In previous years, Labour have won near every seat in Sunderland with under 50% of the votes cast. For example, in 2015 Labour won 24 of the 25 seats being elected but only received 49% of the votes cast across the city that year.

Commenting on the Electoral Reform Society’s report, Lib Dem leader on Sunderland City Council Niall Hodson said:

"Thankfully the decades of Labour ruling Sunderland as a one-party state seem to be coming to an end - but the amount of safe seats in whole swathes of Sunderland and across the North East is a cause for concern when it comes to local democracy. 

"For decades Sunderland Council has been run by complacent Labour councillors who think they will get re-elected time and time again, as a result they don't listen to residents and don't put in the work. This leads to bad decision making by those in charge who ignore the views and wishes of residents.

"Just a few years ago Liberal Democrats had 0 councillors in Sunderland. Now we have 8 across the city and we are hoping to significantly increase our number of councillors after next year's election.

"Former rock solid Labour seats like Pallion and Sandhill are now represented by Lib Dem councillors and I think that this is really important in starting to end the culture of 'safe seats' in Sunderland, making all parties work harder and improving the service that residents receive from their councillors as a result."