Local Elections 2012: Labour Take Control Of Birmingham Council

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LOCAL ELECTIONS
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Labour celebrated a rout of its rivals in Birmingham, winning overall control and ousting the Tory-Liberal Democrat coalition which has ruled the city since 2004.

The comfortable victory, which became clear well before results had been declared in all the 40 seats being contested, saw Labour's share of the vote increase to around 51%.

However the party is braced for a possible "No" vote in a referendum on whether England's second-largest city should have an elected mayor. Rejection of the plan would be dissapointing for key Labour figures who had hoped to stand for Mayor.

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Taking advantage of a marked dip in support for the Conservatives, Labour gained a total of 20 seats from the ruling "partnership" administration, giving it 77 councillors on the 120-member city council.

Labour last had overall control of Birmingham in 2003 and acted as a minority administration until the Tory-Lib Dem partnership was formed in 2004.

Speaking at Birmingham's Council House, Birmingham Labour Group leader Sir Albert Bore pledged that his incoming administration would attempt to tackle the 13% unemployment rate in the city, which is even higher among young people.

Expressing delight at Labour's sweeping gains, Sir Albert told reporters: "It's a fantastic performance and I put it down to all the hard work by candidates and the party that has been put in over weeks, months and years.

"Of course we have benefited from the unpopularity of the Coalition administration and we have already announced that we will do things differently."

Pledging to make job creation a priority, the city council's leader-elect added: "We have got to do something that gets people back into work."

Liberal Democrat Group leader Paul Tilsley, the outgoing Deputy Council leader, acknowledged that Labour's victory had been inevitable given gains made by the party in previous years.

But Cllr Tilsley claimed his party, which successfully defended four of 13 seats it had held since 2008, had succeeded in its efforts to "temper" Labour's gains.

Defending his party's record while sharing power, Cllr Tilsley said: "Our objective in Birmingham was to try and defend the 13 seats we won four years ago.

"I think we have transformed Birmingham as a city over the past eight years. Birmingham was known for its graffiti, for the litter on its streets, and we have carried out an enormous transformation programme.

"I am proud of what we have achieved and I have no doubt that the incoming Labour administration will be grateful for the decisions that we have taken."

The swing to Labour saw the party wrest 11 seats from the Tories and a further nine from the Lib Dems.

Outgoing Council Leader, Conservative Mike Whitby, said he was proud of his legacy in what he conceded was historically a Labour "bastion".

"People will regret this decision to vent their spleen on some very good councillors," Mr Whitby said.

Among those gathered at Birmingham's Council House to enjoy Labour's return to power in the Second City was the MP for Birmingham Selly Oak, Steve McCabe.

Attributing Labour's strong showing in part to public anger at the national Coalition government, Mr McCabe said the Tories and Lib Dems had failed to focus on problems such as the high level of youth unemployment in Birmingham.

The MP said: "Whether you are talking about the Coalition in Birmingham or the Coalition in Westminster, they are out of touch and people are beginning to say 'you are not listening to us'.

"Maybe it's a sign that people are beginning to question Coalition politics full stop."

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