Labour holds Liverpool council seat despite challenge from breakaway group

Katie Neame

Labour has retained a seat in Fazakerley ward on Liverpool City Council despite a strong showing from a Liverpool Community Independents candidate in the groups first election since the councillors broke away from the party earlier this year.

Helen Stephens, the Labour Party candidate in the local contest, won the by-election in the ward on Thursday after securing 57.5% of the vote. The party’s vote share was down 25.6 percentage points on the last time the seat was contested.

Stephens said: “It’s very exciting and overwhelming, I’m made up. Representing my own ward will just be amazing, I’ve lived here for 12 years and do a lot of work in the community and I’m really looking forward to getting stuck in. We’ve just tried to be really positive, and we put ourselves forward because we want to make a difference.”

Laura Wharton, the Liverpool Community Independents candidate, took 26.9% of the vote. The group was formed in April after several Labour councillors resigned from the party after having been suspended for voting against the budget in March.

Wharton said she would stand for the seat again next year when the council will have an ‘all-out’ election. Commenting on the result, she declared: “I’m very happy because it shows we’ve made an impact and the percentage for Labour is lower than the last election. We will come back bigger and better.”

Thursday’s by-election was called following the resignation of Labour councillor Lindsay Melia, who also rebelled in the budget vote. Stephens’ victory takes Labour’s total number of councillors in Liverpool to 61.

Liberal Democrat Jack Williams came third in the by-election with 290 votes, followed by Green candidate Paul Corry who secured 79 votes. Turnout was 21%.

The independent group of councillors is led by former lord mayor of Liverpool Anna Rothery, with budget rebel Alan Gibbons as deputy leader. The group’s other members are Alison Clarke, Rona Heron, Joanne Calvert and Alfie Hincks, along with former Labour councillors Sam Gorst and Sarah Morton.

The rebels criticised the budget plan set out by mayor Joanne Anderson and her cabinet, taking issue with a planned £40 green waste bin charge, reductions in social care budgets and a maximum council tax rise of 2.99%. They also opposed plans to increase the local authority’s reserves by £10m.

Commentating following her selection as leader of the group, Rothery said: “Our entire group is made up of principled like-minded people committed to representing the wants, needs, aspirations and the best interests of the people of Liverpool.

“We have left behind the petty politics and in-fighting to offer our city a real alternative committed to challenging national government cuts and the negative impact they have on the people of our city.”

Former mayor Joe Anderson – who resigned in December 2020 following his arrest as part of a corruption inquiry – tweeted his support for the rebel group at the time of the budget vote. Councillor Calvert is Anderson’s daughter.

Fazakerley (Liverpool)Labour hold.

Lab: 57.5% (-25.6)
Ind: 26.9% (+26.9)
LD: 12.2% (+8.2)
Green: 3.3% (-1.0)

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