WALTHAM FOREST: Labour take control as Liberal Democrats suffer losses (From East London and West Essex Guardian Series)
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WALTHAM FOREST: Labour take control as Liberal Democrats suffer losses
VOTERS in Waltham Forest have handed control of the council to the Labour group.
The local election provided some shock results as the Liberal Democrats suffered devastating losses, with 12 seats going to Labour and three to the Conservatives.
The result takes Labour's number of seats to 37, with the Conservatives having 18 seats and the Liberal Democrats down to just five.
Labour group leader Chris Robbins said they would now focus on delivering their manifesto and protecting people from any potential spending cuts by a Conservative Government.
He said: "I'm massively delighted at the result.
"This result has created a contract between the Labour party and the residents of Waltham Forest.
"We need to ensure the job we do honours that contract so that they will re-elect us again in four years time."
The biggest surprises came as prominent Lib Dem councillors, including former cabinet member Keith Rayner, James O'Rourke, Bob Wheatley and deputy group leader Johar Khan all lost seats to Labour.
Former Lib Dem group leader John Macklin, Bob Belam and Bob Carey, who were all deselected by the local party in the weeks running up to the election, failed to retain their seats in Chapel End ward.
But their decision to stand as independent candidates following their deselection split the vote, resulting in the ward's three seats being taken by Labour.
The Lib Dems put their catastrophic performance down to a strong turnout by Labour voters in London and the council elections being held on the same day as the General Election.
Johar Khan said: "I think Gordon Brown made a very good decision having them on the same day.
"There was a big turnout and an anti-Tory vote in Walthamstow, and we suffered as a party as a consequence."
He said he felt the deselection issue had not had a detrimental effect and pointed out that seats were lost across the borough.
Mr Khan added there would now be "time for reflection", but said he was sure the group will take seats back at the next local election in 2014.
Conservative leader Matt Davis was in good spirits as the group became the second largest on the council, winning three seats from the Lib Dems in Hale End and Highams Park.
He said: "It is very gratifying to win it back because we lost it last time around.
"I would like to thank the people of Hale End and Highams Park for their support."
Mr Davis described the Liberal Democrats' losses as a "self-inflicted wound" and said he had "considerable sympathy" for some of the people who lost seats.
Voter turnout was 59.22 per cent, with the total number of votes cast being 103,675.
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