A new postal voting system in South Tyneside has been hailed as an overwhelming success after yesterday's (Thursday May 2nd) turnout of 55.35% doubled the votes of previous Council elections.
South Tyneside Council was one of only a handful of local authorities in the country chosen by the Government to spearhead new ways of voting in an attempt to boost turnout at local elections. This year more than 61,000 South Tynesider's posted their votes compared to only 29,639 in the last Council elections held in 2000.
The figure of 55.35% represents the number of ballot paper envelopes received by election staff at the Town Hall and reflects a significant number of documents not counted because they did not meet the requirements of the pilot procedures. This accounts for the fact that the declared result represents approximately 53% of the electorate. The turnout split between the South Shields and Jarrow wards was 55.82% and 54.88% respectively.
However the high turnout resulted in no change to the South Tyneside Council line up with Labour holding on to the 17 seats they were defending; the Liberal/Democrats held their two seats and the Progressives won the one they were defending.
The overall political make-up of South Tyneside Council as a result of the 2002 local elections is as follows: Labour retain overall control with 50 seats, Liberal Democrats hold six seats, and Progressives four seats.
Among the elected Labour candidates are four new Councillors: Ann Walsh (Tyne Dock and Simonside); Wallace Hobson (Horsley Hill); Tracey Dixon (Whitburn and Marsden) and Eddie McAtominey (Hebburn South).
The highest turn out was Hebburn South ward with 62.89 per cent of the 4770 eligible voters. The lowest was in Rekendyke ward with 50.76 per cent.
Conservatives who challenged in 12 wards, again failed to gain a single seat on the Council. The three Independent candidates were also unsuccessful in their challenges.
The Leader of South Tyneside Council, Councillor Paul Waggott says: "This election was a resounding success and I am very pleased that we achieved such a high turnout - it obviously proves that we made the right decision when we decided to go for all postal voting."
Work is starting on a detailed Assessment Report which needs to be sent to the DTLR, and which will be discussed in the Pilot Election Project Team which has been involved in the planning of the election over the last six months.