Local election: Apathy rules as Labour strengthens grip in Hull
APATHY was the biggest winner in the city council elections, with just one in four people bothering to vote.
The 25 per cent turnout was one of the lowest seen in Hull for several years.
It proved to be the main talking point on a night when Labour strengthened their grip on power at the authority by gaining five seats from the Liberal Democrats.
The most high-profile Lib Dem casualty was former cabinet member John Robinson, who lost in Avenue ward to Labour newcomer Rosie Nicola.
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However, despite expectations in some quarters of a wipeout, the Lib Dems held seven of the 12 seats they were defending.
Labour now has 39 seats at the Guildhall compared with 17 held by the Lib Dems. There are two Conservatives and one Independent.
Labour leader Councillor Steve Brady said he was disappointed by the low turnout.
He said: "I think local politics and local decision-making is extremely important, so when I see the low turnouts in some of the wards, it does make me disappointed.
"I think many people have switched off from politics.
"They have lost faith in politicians, particularly at national level, and that applies to all the political parties.
"Trust has disappeared completely and that is a dangerous thing. Until that trust can somehow be restored, we are going to see low turnouts like this continue for some time and I am not sure how politicians, both local and national, can change things for the better."
His views were echoed by Labour's Colin Inglis, who won in Myton ward.
He said: "People have voted with their feet, or rather, they haven't, because they have decided to stay at home and not vote at all.
"It's a very worrying trend and it's something we have to address as politicians."
The Avenue ward result was one of Labour's highlights of the night.
Mrs Nicola said one of the first people she called after her victory was confirmed was her father Mac Staveley, a former Labour councillor.
"He was so pleased for me, he burst into tears," she said.
A Lib Dem stalwart, Mr Robinson had represented the ward since 1999.
Elsewhere, Lib Dem deputy leader Mike Ross held his seat in Newland after seeing Labour score a success in the ward last year.
He said: "Overall, we are very pleased to have held the seats we have.
"We put a lot of effort into the campaign and I think that hard work has paid off.
"Labour were confident they were going to steamroll us aside but that hasn't happened."
As well as Avenue, Labour made gains in Ings, Holderness, Newington and Sutton.
In Sutton, former Labour councillor Ken Turner celebrated his return to the authority with his son Karl, the Hull East MP, who attended the count to see his father beat sitting Lib Dem Kalvin Neal, another former cabinet member.
Mr Turner junior said: "I'm very proud of my dad and it's a great result.
"However, I am concerned about the low turnout across Hull. There is widespread disillusionment with politics at the moment and we can't ignore it but a lot of it is because of what this Government is doing to the economy and places like Hull.
"People don't feel they have any power to change things but unless they come out and vote things won't change.
"As politicians, we have got a job to do to make sure people realise that voting is one of the most important things in life."
Labour's new face in Newington is Helena Spencer, the current Lady Mayoress of Hull.
She said: "It's been a hell of a two years. I've gone from being a senior officer at the council to being the Lady Mayoress and now a councillor. Who knows what the next two years will bring?"
The knife-edge result of the night came in Holderness ward, where Labour's Gill Kennett won by 34 votes after no fewer than three re-counts.
In her victory speech, she paid tribute to the work of former Lib Dem councillor John Nicholson, who retired before the elections.
The Lib Dems held Kings Park with long-serving party activist Charles Quinn succeeding where former council leader Carl Minns famously lost 12 months ago.
Succeeding former Lord Mayor Elaine Garland, who has also retired from frontline politics, he said: "I am really looking forward to representing the people of Kings Park for the next four years and working with everyone in the Liberal Democrat group."
Lib Dem victories in potential troublespots such as Drypool, Derringham and Boothferry dented Labour hopes of a larger haul of seats.
The only Conservative success on the night came in Bricknell where Tory John Abbott held off a strong Labour challenge to retain his seat.
Conservative group leader John Fareham said the result was down to a focused campaign, which saw support being drafted in from the East Riding.
Brigg and Goole MP Andrew Percy, who once represented Bricknell on the council before moving to Westminster, joined the Tory celebrations.
He said: "The city council needs good opposition parties and the Conservatives provide that.
"Like many people, I am disappointed at the turnout. No one can really claim to speak for the people of Hull with a turnout figure like this.
"As politicians, we must recognise there is a serious problem of public disengagement and no amount of tinkering around the edges is going to cure it.
"I certainly can't offer a magic solution but it deeply depressing."
None of the fringe parties came close to winning a seat.
However, UKIP finished second in Myton, Orchard Park and Greenwood and Southcoates West and third in five other wards.
The best result for the Greens came in Avenue ward, where Martin Deane finished third behind Labour and the Lib Dems.
There were also several grumbles about the decision to hold the count at the City Hall instead of the traditional setting of the Guildhall, with at least two councillors being refused admission by security guards at the start of proceedings.