LABOUR’S stranglehold on Rotherham was loosened in dramatic fashion as the UK Independence Party became the main opposition group on the council.
Deputy council leader Jahangir Akhtar and Richard Russell, the cabinet member for waste and emergency planning, were among the seven Labour councillors to lose their seats.
Ukip gained a further two seats from the Conservatives and successfully defended the Rawmarsh seat gained in a by-election last year to emerge with 10 overall.
Ukip’s Rotherham branch chairman and councillor for the Rawmarsh ward, Cavan Vines, said: “This will send shock waves. I hope the main parties take note, open their eyes and follow some of Ukips policies, get us out of Europe and get control of our borders back.”
Coun Vines will now be joined on the council by wife Maureen who took the Rotherham West seat held by Mr Akhtar.
He added: “I have been saying that Ukip needs to get its foot on the ladder and we have now got to get MPs into Westminster. We are now on the road.”
Labour went into the election holding 57 of the council’s 63 seats.
Wentworth and Dearne MP John Healey, a Minister in the last Labour government, said: “There’s no denying this was a good night for Ukip. They took support, they took votes, from all the parties. They took seats from the Tories as well as us.
“The main message I got during the campaign and during the last year is people are fed up with the mainstream parties and that is a challenge for us all.”
Mr Healey pointed to the example of a lifelong Labour supporter he had encountered on the doorstep who had told him was voting Ukip because the major parties “need a good kicking”.
In addition to winning 10 of the 21 seats contested this year, Ukip narrowly missed out on others including Brinsworth and Catcliffe, where the party was within 40 votes of unseating Labour and Holderness where Coun Gerald Smith, the cabinet member for regeneration, saw off his Ukip challenger John Wilkinson by a margin of just three votes.
Labour councillor Chris Read said: “I was pleased with the result in Wickersley where we have campaigned hard for that result but it is a very disappointing result across the rest of Rotherham in which national factors were clearly a big influence.”
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