Fringe parties change political map

European Election Count at EIS Sheffield 2014'UKIP candidate Pauline Andrews is returned as councillor for East Ecclesfield and is congratulated by party supporters
European Election Count at EIS Sheffield 2014'UKIP candidate Pauline Andrews is returned as councillor for East Ecclesfield and is congratulated by party supporters

It’s still very much a Labour council, which was never really in doubt, but now UKIP is snapping at the ruling group’s heels in several Sheffield wards.

The first UKIP councillors are preparing to move into Sheffield town hall, to represent West Ecclesfield, East Ecclesfield and Stocksbridge and Don.

And, amid the headlines over the march of UKIP, the Greens are making progress in Sheffield, doubling the number of councillors to four as a result of successes in Central ward and Broomhill.

There are still no Conservative councillors. At least Labour can take heart from increasing its majority on the city council, albeit it by having the same number of seats.

It’s carry on Labour, although there is every reason for nerves as UKIP registered substantial votes to take second places, sometimes closely behind, in Beighton, Darnall, Firth Park, Hillsborough, Mosborough, Richmond, Shiregreen and Brightside, Southey, Stannington and Woodhouse.

Labour leader Julie Dore, who has been re-elected as group leader for at least another year, alongside deputy leader Harry Harpham, said the results were a ‘wake-up call’ for all parties.

“It’s quite clear the people of Sheffield are giving a strong message to the main parties, particularly the Liberal Democrats, and across the country, the Tories. But having said that I am not complacent about the message they are giving to Labour as well.

“However what we need to do is reflect on the results ... we need to listen to the people of Sheffield, find out what their real issues are.

“UKIP does what it says on the tin, it’s the UK independence party, that’s what it’s about, but I think what the people of Sheffield really care about is public services.” However, UKIP now has a foothold in the north and north east of Sheffield.

Stocksbridge has regularly registered an anti-Sheffield vote, and now one of its three councillors is retired police inspector Jack Clarkson, who was once a Lib Dem councillor for the same ward.

He said: “We are now in the belly of the beast and it is common sense policies that we are going to start putting forward.

“We are going to be scrutinising the council, particularly the waste of money, like why we are still paying for the World Student Games.

“I think there are a number of factors that led people to vote for UKIP – the biggest issue is immigration and migration. All we want is sensible border control.”

For the Lib Dems, there is the embarrassment of the defeat of Shaffaq Mohammed to Labour’s Anne Murphy after he had switched from Broomhill in what, his critics claimed, was an attempt to secure a safer haven.

After controlling the council as recently as 2011, the overall number of Lib Dem councillors has fallen to the lowest level for over two decades.

Some observers believe in addition to national unpopularity, they are paying the price in Sheffield of concentrating too much on Nick Clegg’s Hallam seat in what is claimed to be the consequence of a decision to focus primarily on winning over voters for the upcoming general election.

All 18 Lib Dem councillors are now in the south west corner of Sheffield, it is pointed out, and the party no longer has representatives in Walkley, Broomhill, Stocksbridge, East and West Ecclesfield, Nether Edge, Hillsborough and Central.

In Broomhill, one of the councillors is now Brian Webster, a 25-year-old PhD student, who won it for the Greens, partly, it is thought, as a result of a strong turnout among younger people, including students.

He said: “Young people are increasingly realising that there’s a tough economic climate, climate change and other environmental pressures and a constantly lengthening retirement age. All the long-term problems we face need long-term solutions and the Green party is the only party that has coherent policies to address those long-term crises.”

n The composition of Sheffield City Council is now: Labour 59, Liberal Democrats 18, Green four and UKIP three.

n UKIP took three of the six seats for Yorkshire and the Humber in the European elections. Labour claimed two seats, while the Conservatives won one. The Liberal Democrats came fifth, losing the party’s two seats and trailing the Greens.