Rotherham local elections: Labour gain two and Tories lose two on day when independents provided surprises

Cllr Chris Read remains leader of Rotherham CouncilCllr Chris Read remains leader of Rotherham Council
Cllr Chris Read remains leader of Rotherham Council
LABOUR retained control of Rotherham Council – increasing its number of seats to 33 – but leader Cllr Chris Read admitted the national political landscape “obviously helps”.

The ruling group had held 31 of RMBC’s 59 seats before this week’s local election polls, with that number dwindling in recent months with some high profile departures.

But the party exerted more control over the Rotherham Town Hall chamber on a day which the Tories dropped from 15 seats to 13 when their results from elsewhere in the country fared much worse.

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The independents enjoyed strong successes – taking ten seats.

Cllr Michael Bennett-Sylvester was the lone independent councillor immediately after the last local elections in 2021. He was joined by others during the term, as members quit established parties.

This time around he found an independent running mate in Jodi Ryalls, a 37-year-old mum from East Herringthorpe.

Jodi had never even voted until this year – but is now a borough councillor as she and Cllr Bennett-Sylvester took both seats in the Dalton & Thrybergh ward.

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Jodi said: “I’m just a girl from the estate. I didn’t think for one second I would get this far. But I think we need more people like me, who aren’t educated in politics, to be on the council. Our voices matter.”

Cllr Bennett-Sylvester said: “Jodi asked what she needed to do and I said: ‘Just be you’.

“We need more people from deprived communities like ours to know that they can achieve things like this and bring change.”

Wales ward stood by Marnie Havard and Dominic Beck, who were both in red rosettes when voted in last time around.

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Newly-independent Cllr Havard believes voters stuck with them this time because they have seen the hard work the pair put in around the ward, and represent the people in their wards regardless of politics.

Cllr Beck has gone from RMBC cabinet member, prospective parliamentary candidate, to deselection by the party in the past 18 months.

He held onto the seat he first won as a teenager – this time as an independent – and said: “My political beliefs remain unchanged. My principles haven’t changed. I’m just happy to continue to represent the Wales ward as I have done for so long. I’m proud and privileged to be given the opportunity again.”

Cllr Chris Read, Labour group and council leader, said: “Obviously, it helps when the Labour party is doing well nationally.

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“But the flipside of that, coming from those terrible results in 2019, is that you see how much the Conservatives are spending to try and keep those seats in Rother Valley.”

The Liberal Democrats dropped from four to three seats but group leader Cllr Adam Carter said the party’s vote share had held steady.

“This is a year often defined by national issues,” he added. “But here the Conservatives haven’t seen the losses that you would expect, compared to the picture nationally.”

The final number of elected members after the 2024 elections: 33 Labour, 13 Conservatives, three Liberal Democrats and ten independents.

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