LABOUR triumphed at the Cannock Chase Council Elections gaining seven seats, losing none and taking a controlling majority on the council.
The night was less kind to the Liberal Democrats, who lost all their seats and gained none in a backlash one ousted councillor hoped would be a “wake-up call” to the party in Westminster.
Ex Liberal Democrat councillor Pat Williams, who lost her Western Springs seat to Labour’s Carl Bennett, said she wasn’t surprised by the outcome of the vote.
“I expected it because of the national swing against the Liberal Democrats since they formed the coalition government with the Conservatives,” she said. “I’m very much against the coalition and I’ve told Nick Clegg as much.”
Mrs Williams, who had only served one term and will continue on as a Rugeley town councillor, said she hoped the nationwide defeats would give Liberal Democrat leaders pause for thought.
“I hope it’s a wake-up call for them,” she said.
A closely contested seat in Etching Hill and the Heath saw Conservative candidate Justin Johnson, gain an important victory for his party in a seat vacated by previous councillor Brian Williams in March.
“We didn’t know it was going to be as tough as that for the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats, but we had an idea that there might have been a bit of a backlash,” he said.
Councillor Johnson said he tried to get out and talk to prospective constituents before the election to convince them this was an election about local issues and not national politics, but said the low turnout in many wards was at the root of the downfall of many of his coalition colleagues.
“That’s one reason we did so badly,” he said. “Usual supporters of the Conservative party just didn’t come out and vote in a lot of places.”
In fact polling figures were low across the board, with no single ward seeing more than a 30 per cent turnout and a turnout as low as 18 per cent in some wards.
In a double swoop, Labour gained two seats in Hagley, with Brian Bottomer elected to serve a 3-year part term and Andy Lovell elected to serve a full term.
“It was a great night for Labour, but it was a great night for all of Cannock Chase as well, with a good group of energetic and enthusiastic councillors taking seats.”
Councillor Lovell, who has lived in Rugeley all his life, said that one of the reasons he had stood was because he’d grown tired of seeing his town stagnating.
“We have to bring people back to Rugeley town centre and get them staying longer,” he said. “We have still got too many empty shops, we have still got uneven pavements and some of the infrastructure in the town centre needs attention.
He said he knew there was a pot of money available for regeneration but wanted to be sure it was spent on things that would have a real tangible benefit to the people of the town.
Acknowledging the low turnout in the elections Councillor Lovell added that he had noticed a real sense of apathy in the people of the area while canvassing and that moving forward he wanted to address that.
He said: “I want to see the voting numbers rise and rise and rise and an end to the negative stuff that has been going on in the last few years with members of different parties scoring points of each other rather than focusing on the people.”