COUNCIL ELECTIONS: Labour regains Blaenau Gwent  heartland

10:45pm Friday 4th May 2012

SEVEN years after the rift that led to Labour's downfall in Blaenau Gwent, the party came back with full force - taking back its iconic heartland.

Labour claimed 33 of the 42 seats. As the results were declared, Labour leader for the borough Hedley McCarthy described the win  and gain of 17 seats as "a blissful dawn", words once used by former Labour leader Michael Foot during the Labour landslide of 1945.

Independents claimed seven seats in the borough while the remaining two seats were won by candidates not affiliated to a party.

The results mean big changes for the council, with some long-serving councillors losing their seats.

These include former council leader Des Hillman, who said he was "bitterly disappointed", as well as former Ebbw Vale North councillors Don Wilcox and John Rogers.

With a huge smile, Cllr McCarthy described the win as "an excellent result" and said education had to be a key priority of the council.

Tensions have been high in the council over the past year after the damning Estyn report in July last year landed the council's education department in special measures and a Wales Audit Office investigation was carried out into the running of the council.

In October, then council leader Des Hillman resigned following two votes of no confidence and went on to form the Blaenau Gwent Real Independents.

Yesterday, Cllr McCarthy said: "I want to meet with the commissioners at an early opportunity and see how we can take education forward. I want to turn it around."

Blaenau Gwent MP Nick Smith congratulated Labour councillors and said they would "work with energy, enthusiasm and determination to improve and develop local services".

The Labour comeback in Blaenau Gwent follows from 2005 when Labour Assembly member Peter Law resigned from the Labour party and won the parliamentary seat as an Independent in the row over an all-women shortlist. The loss of the Assembly seat followed.

Labour then lost eight of its seats at the 2008 local election, leading to the Independents taking control.

After winning back both the parliamentary and Assembly seat in recent years, Blaenau Gwent's new Labour council leader will be formally chosen on May 24.

The turnout was 37.7 per cent.


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