Shaky 'republic' hangs on by one seat

Barnsley TWO decades ago Barnsley was a cornerstone of the so-called People's Republic of South Yorkshire but today Labour holds the council by just one seat.

Support for traditional Labour has been ebbing away for some years and there were real fears the party could have lost control in this election.

The result might be a relief for Council Leader Steve Houghton and his colleagues but he admits the situation is difficult and does not blame the voters who chose alternatives, including the British National Party which attracted strong support in some wards without actually winning any seats.

Instead Mr Houghton believes Government policies must shoulder most of the blame for the losses, primarily the stance over immigration and the abolition of the 10p income tax band.

Mr Houghton was re-elected to his Cudworth ward with a large majority and did extensive canvassing in the area.

He says there were no complaints about the work of the council, which is currently focused on improving the town's poor education record, regenerating the town centre and making neighbourhoods safer.

After the results he said: "There are clearly some messages here for the Government about what people are saying.

"Immigration is an issue and the 10 pence tax band is an issue. Barnsley is a place with a lot of people on low incomes who have benefited from that.

"Labour should be the party of the low paid and people are thinking it is not. Something has to be done about that.

Mr Houghton believes the support shown for the BNP, which fielded candidates for all but one of the contested seats, reflected a protest vote against the Government.

The council still intended to take a "positive" approach to its work, which he hoped would get public support.

"Priorities will be dealing with education, regeneration of the town centre and making sure communities are safe by developing neighbourhood policing.

"We need the Government to support that and not get in the way," he said.

Mr Houghton also paid tribute to two long-serving councillors who lost their seats, Terry Bristowe and former Mayor Arthur Whittaker, who had many years of service to Labour.

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