By Kit Sandeman, Local Democracy Reporter
Labour has kept its tight control of Nottingham City Council in the local elections, winning 50 seats out of 55.
The main shock of the night came new group the Nottingham Independents won all three seats in Clifton East, to become the second-largest party on the council.
The Conservatives lost one of their three seats – in Wollaton West. The result broadly mirrored the overall trend, with Labour and Conservatives losing seats while independents have done well.
It was the first election since the city’s boundaries were redrawn, and since long-serving leader Jon Collins announced he would stand down.
Polls closed at 10pm on Thursday and the authority counted votes overnight, announcing results early on Friday morning.
It is understood the new leader will be chosen on Friday afternoon (May 3). Councillors David Mellen and Steve Battlemuch, who were both re-elected, are expected to go head-to-head in a vote of Labour councillors.
Former leader Graham Chapman is also standing down from his position as deputy leader, and his successor is expected to be decided by the end of the weekend.
For the first time, more than half the councillors are women.
Turnout was relatively low, at 29 percent, and councillor Mellen, who represents the Dales ward, said his party would work to improve political engagement.
He said: “We talked to a lot of people on the doorsteps, and people are feeling like they’re not listened to, and we as a council need to move forward in engaging with people and giving them confidence in their local council.
“Obviously the result in Clifton is disappointing, but it is in the face of 50 Labour councillors, and more than half are women, which means many more people will see someone who looks like them representing them, and that’s definitely a good thing.”
Francesco Lari is the leader of the Nottingham Independents, but narrowly lost his election in Bestwood.
He said: “We swept Clifton clean, and we are now the official opposition. We did get quite close in all the other wards, where we were the closest party to Labour.
“It shows that if you want to challenge for the council you have to be a Nottingham Independent.
“Our challenge this time round was just to get someone on the council. Next time we scale up, and we will have worked as constructive opposition with a great record working for all of Nottingham.”
Nick Max is the chairman of Nottingham Conservatives, and was the candidate in the Castle ward.
He said: “It’s been a very difficult time. It’s the first time I’ve walked through affluent areas of Nottingham and people hate you. People are really angry and upset. Because of Brexit.
“I had life-long Conservative voters saying you’ll never get my vote again. It’s sad. Nobody is happy with how the party has dealt with Brexit.”
Andrew Rule is the leader of the Conservative group, and kept his seat in Clifton West.
He said: “It’s a night of mixed fortune. I’m delighted to have been elected in the new ward with Councillor Roger Steel but we will take some time to reflect as a party on the loss of Wollaton.
“Next week it’s time to get stuck back in Clifton West.”
In total, Labour won 50 seats, the independents won three and the Conservatives won two. Turnout was 29 percent.