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COUNCIL ELECTIONS 2011: Liberal Democrats lose control of Stockport council

By Steven Oldham

Liberal Democrats suffered a pincer movement at the hands of Labour and Conservatives to lose control of Stockport Metropolitan Council for the first time since 2002.

Starting the night with an under-threat seven-seat majority, there were widescale losses, leaving local MP Andrew Stunnell stunned.

In total Liberal Democrats lost five seats, with Conservative candidates William Wragg, Alanna Vine and Syd Lloyd taking Hazel Grove, Bramhall North and Bredbury Green while Labour’s Brian Hendley and Patrick McAuley won Davenport and Cale Green and Manor respectively. 

Elsewhere, Labour’s Alex Ganotis took Heatons Heath from the Conservatives as the Liberal Democrats ended the night with 30 of the 63 seats, giving the potential balance of power to the six independent candidates, who include Councillors David White and Roy Driver, who quit the former ruling party in protest at their government coalition.

“It was fairly obvious we were always in for a very challenging evening,” said Stunnell.

“We’ve worked hard to get our message across but it seems we need to work a bit harder.  The main thing is to ensure the people of Stockport get good representation.”

Jenny Humphreys lost her Manor seat but claimed a focus on a national agenda had dominated thinking for many casting their votes.

“The media and Labour’s campaigning has made people vote on national issues at these elections, not local ones,” she said.

Lib Dem colleague Pam King, who maintained her Cheadle and Gatley seat by less than 100 votes, added: “I’m very pleased to win – it’s been a very hard campaign. In normal times I would’ve increased my majority.  It’s a shame national issues have clouded local politics and we’ve lost good, hard working councillors like Jenny Humphreys.”

Meanwhile, Stockport’s Labour MP Ann Coffey struggled to hide her joy with the results on a night that Nick Clegg’s party sustained heavy losses across the country.

“We’ve done very well it seems,” she said.  

“We won two seats back – Manor and Davenport and Cale Green and we’ve got a big majority in Davenport.  

“Undoubtedly people have chosen to air their reservations on the coalition.  As they say, the people have spoken.”

Council officials claimed that a ballot paper blunder, which saw paperwork for Heaton North polling stations go to Heatons South and vice versa, would not have influenced the result, although Labour’s Ganotis seized the former from Conservative Jackie Jones.

Stockport Council chief executive Eamonn Boylan admitted he was embarrassed by the error and promised an investigation involving the Electoral Commission.

But candidates seem happy with the quick response to the issue, which is only thought to have impacted about 100 voters.

Peter Barber, Green candidate in Heatons North, said: “You’ve got to applaud the council for sorting out the issue quickly though, of course, it shouldn’t have happened in the first place.”

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