A disappointing night for the Labour Party in Wigan saw them lose three seats, but it could have been much worse for the leading party if it wasn’t for tight margins.
They still control the 75-seat council with a large majority of 57, but gains made by the Conservatives and independent candidates has thrown some wards into complete control of other groups.
Labour won 20 out of 25 seats, but three victories by less than 100 votes masked the true decrease in support since the seats were last up for election in 2015.
Labour leader David Molyneux said his party had ‘done okay’ from a local point of view, but he believed the national context surrounding the election had impacted results.
He said on the night: “I think the Brexit story and people’s perception of politics in general has certainly taken a knock in the last few months, and that’s come out on the doorstep.
“We’ve got a good story to tell in Wigan. As a council, we’re a good council and the people out there have continued to support us.”
Seventeen wards were counted in the shadow of the DW Stadium at Robin Park Leisure Centre, while the other nine were contested at Leigh Sports Village.
The night got off to a slow start in Wigan, with some wards verified and counted earlier than others, but by 12.30am results were flying in from both halls.
Wigan’s first result set the tone for the night, as Bryn Independents candidate Sylvia Wilkinson took Labour’s seat in Bryn by just 75 votes.
It meant her group are now in control of all the ward’s three seats, and another clean sweep at Labour’s expense followed with the Independent Network’s James Watson claiming Atherton.
Labour candidate Stephen Murphy then also lost by 73 votes in Orrell, giving the opposition complete control of the ward.
Winning candidate Steven Evans told MM: “We’re delighted. It [controlling all three seats] helps in terms of teamwork and consistency of emphasis – it’s just tremendous.”
He’ll now join Michael Winstanley, leader of the opposition, in the ward, who added: “When we were going round talking to people, yes they were disappointed we were not out of the EU, but actually they were focusing on who would be the best councillor for the ward.”
Labour escaped much heavier damage to their majority with victories in Ashton by 35 votes, in Standish with Langtree by 92 and Shevington with Lower Ground by 93.
The marginal gain in Standish was at the expense of Independent candidate George Fairhurst, and that was one of the only real disappointments for Independent groups on the night.
The Conservatives held their only seat up for election on the night in Lowton East, while the Independent Network’s Jim Ellis later took another seat from Labour in Hindley to complete a disappointing election for the controlling party.
Voter turnout was 25.9% in Wigan, 26.8% in Makerfield and the grouped figures for the Leigh constituency wards have not been released.
The results mean Labour now have 57 seats (-3), the various Independent groups have 10 (+2) and the Conservatives have eight (+1).