Conservative local election success means Sandwell Council has an opposition again

Sandwell Council has an official opposition for the first time in years after nine Tories were elected at the local elections.

Conservatives celebrate in Sandwell, left to right:David Fisher, William Gill, Scott Chapman, Jay Anandou, Archer Williams, and Liam Abrahams
Conservatives celebrate in Sandwell, left to right:David Fisher, William Gill, Scott Chapman, Jay Anandou, Archer Williams, and Liam Abrahams

As voters swung towards the Conservatives nationwide, that trend continued in Sandwell where Labour has dominated for years and remains in power - but with an opposition.

The borough had not seen a Tory councillor elected since 2011 - a decade ago.

Sandwell Council's interim leader Maria Crompton, who herself narrowly retained her seat to the Tories, said the results will force Labour to "raise our game".

She told the Express & Star: "Nationally, it has been a difficult time for Labour and we have seen that here also.

"We have lost nine seats, and I don't like losing nine seats. That is really bad. However, we will now have a credible opposition that will make us raise our game.

"Therefore, that will be good for us, it will be good for the council and it will be good for the residents of Sandwell."

Conservatives celebrate in Sandwell, left to right:David Fisher, William Gill, Scott Chapman, Jay Anandou, Archer Williams, and Liam Abrahams

A total of 27 seats were up for grabs across 24 wards, with some wards having space for two new candidates.

Before the election began, Labour had 60 seats, while there were five independent councillors and one representing the Brexit party.

There were also six vacant seats, but one of these will be contested in a later by-election.

Among the Tory candidates to get elected was Scott Chapman in the Friar Park ward. He is also the chairman of Sandwell Conservative Group.

Reacting to his win, Councillor Chapman said: "The feedback on the doorstep was brilliant. It is a great feeling to win, and well deserved, as with all the other candidates.

"We have tapped into the national mood. People were saying the Labour party has forget their working class roots. We are more in tune with working class people."

Inside the count at Sandwell Valley

Of the Labour councillors to lose their seats was Liam Preece, who had represented Charlemont with Grove Vale ward since 2012.

Mr Preece said: "The elections have certainly been challenging. It is natural to ask questions, 11 years into a Tory government, why we are still losing seats.

"I think the answer to that question is quite complicated, and deserves a lot of thought."

Liam Preece lost his seat

In Blackheath, Councillor Kerrie Carmichael retained her seat by less than 400 votes against the Conservatives.

She believed the Government's vaccination programme won more support for the Tories.

She said: "I think Labour has faced a harder time this year, but I think that is because of the national trend. I think they are calling it the vaccine bounce. But that could change."

Newly-elected Labour councillor Sukhbir Gill, who represents the St Paul's ward, added: "I think this year, Labour have had one or two bad results. But we will fight back."

MP Nicola Richards was delighted with the results

Before the counting began at Sandwell Valley Country Park, where a makeshift site was set up under marquees, Labour's Warley MP John Spellar said: "This is not a good year for the Labour party, but we will hold ground, and then we will be back."

Nicola Richards MP, who was elected in 2019 to represent West Bromwich East for the Tories, believes the new Conservative councillors will help to start a "cultural change" in Sandwell Council.

She added "Locally, the feeling changed back in 2019 when I was elected. People want local representatives that will work hard for them, and not take them for granted.

"Not almost laugh at working class voters. That is what people have felt like."

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