The Conservatives’ 14-year stint in power at Trafford has ended after gains by Labour tipped the council to no overall control, with some murmurs overnight at the vote count that the losses could be due to the Tories’ backing of controversial plans at Turn Moss.
Trafford was previously the only non-Labour controlled authority in Greater Manchester.
The results were announced at 5am, revealing that Labour had gained four seats from the Conservatives, taking their total to 30 and making them the largest party in Trafford. There was also an unforeseen double win for the Green Party in Altrincham with Dan Jerrome and Geraldine Coggins creating a historic event for the party as they have never had a seat in Trafford previously.
The turnout for this year was 73,073 people, equating to 42.9%, which was a 1.9% increase from 2016. The total seat count is now 30 for Labour, 29 for Conservatives, two for Greens and two for the Liberal Democrats.
Cllr Andrew Western, leader of the Labour Trafford group said: “We hoped to take the council into no overall control tonight but to become the largest party at the same time is a fantastic bonus for us. We could not be happier, these results include two seats that we’ve never won in the history of Trafford and the size of the majorities in those target seats that we knew we needed to win – it’s absolutely fantastic.”
Cllr Sean Anstee, the Conservative Group leader told Place North West: “We were clearly an obvious target for the Labour party. With the only Conservative council in Greater Manchester we’ve seen significant levels of opposition activity. It’s disappointing but we will need to reflect and learn, and try and understand so that we can come back fighting next year.”
The Green Party said that it was their “sheer hard work, knocking on and listening to local people all-year round” which accounted for their success. Daniel Jerrome, one of Manchester’s new Green Party councillors said: “We’ve dealt with a lot of issues from residents, but I suppose some of the bigger issues that stood out would be some of the big developments that are going on in Altrincham.
“The council have been avoiding the affordable housing element of social housing, and we’ve held them to account on that. They’re also putting big developments on small type urban areas where the infrastructure can’t cope.”
There is now the question as to who will lead Trafford Council. A less likely option, Anstee could continue as leader of the council with no overall control, or the position could switch to Western. Portfolios for the Greater Manchester Combined Authority which Anstee held as Trafford leader will also be redistributed, if he is no longer leader.
The atmosphere of the count hall throughout the night was definitely reflected in the results. People muttered about how the council was painfully on a knife-edge – and you could certainly cut the tension as the poll boxes arrived to be counted.
Many conversations turned to what would most likely cause Labour to tip the result to no overall control. Could the controversial Green Belt proposals by the Conservative council have finally pushed residents to act? And was Labour’s anti-semitism row to be blamed for their loss of a seat in Salford?
The proposals put forward by Trafford for the Turn Moss playing fields in Stretford include building a training ground for Salford City FC, including four training pitches, an office, and a gym converted from an existing storage facility on the site.
Campaigners have claimed the planning application, which was due to be discussed at an extraordinary planning meeting on 17 May, has attracted more objections than any other in Trafford’s history.
Speaking prior to the results, and defending his position on recent development proposals, Anstee said: “The Turn Moss proposals, I think, enhance a hugely valued but in many respects massively under-utilised green space in Trafford. We want to see more people more active, more often. It brings better changing facilities, separate changing facilities for women and young people for the first time ever.”
Whereas Labour Trafford group leader Andrew Western has promised angered locals that his party will “withdraw the planning application as it stands, go back to the drawing board and work with residents on a sustainable future for Turn Moss that the whole community can support.”
With the council now in no overall control, the future of the Turn Moss plan is in question.
Trafford was amongst nine Greater Manchester councils which revealed their results overnight. In Wigan, Salford, Bury, Bolton, Tameside, Oldham, Rochdale and Stockport, the councils remained in Labour control.
Manchester City Council’s results will be announced this afternoon.