THE Labour party held on to a strong presence in Prestwich and Whitefield as the Tories picked up a surprise seat in yesterday's Local Elections.

Despite fears that national concerns around Anti-Semitism within the Labour Party would have a bearing on the election, they held on to four of the towns' six seats — with incumbent Sedgley councillor, Cllr Alan Quinn, retaining the ward by a huge margin of 973.

Labour also held on in Besses, which saw Mary Whitby retain her seat by a comfortable margin of 863 votes, and Unsworth, with Mohammed Rafiq taking over from outgoing Councillor Paul Adams.

Cllr Quinn said: "I am very pleased and I am honoured that the people of Sedgley have put their trust in me for the third time.

"It has been a great result and a majority of nearly a thousand, but I am also aware that the Labour Party has to settle with the problem of Anti-Semitism in the party — which was an issue on doorsteps.

"But I think that the community realise that I'm a councillor who will fight for and understands the Jewish community.

"And if the leaders of Labour want to talk and find a way to win back the confidence of the community I'm too happy to help."

Anti-Semitism had previously cost Labour in 2016, when Paddy Heneghan and Andrea Simpson lost their Holyrood and Sedgley seats, to the Liberal Democrats and Tories respectively — as rows over the issue again dominated the party, following comments by Ken Livingstone.

Cllr Quinn added: "I'm not afraid to criticise elements of the Labour Party like Ken Livingstone.

"On International Holocaust day where was Ken Livingstone? He was on Iranian TV. It's a disgrace.

"It's a slap in the face to my Jewish constituents and the Labour Party need to do more and they need to do it quicker."

Elsewhere, the towns' wards provided some of the most dramatic moments of the night

Conservative Nicholas Jones was elected to Pilkington Park, becoming one of the council’s youngest members as he replaces Labour’s John Mallon.

And, after a recount, St Mary’s Ward went to Labour’s Eamonn O’Brien, the council’s cabinet member for finance and housing, by a narrow margin of 57 votes.

Liberal Democrat leader Cllr Tim Pickstone held on to his Holyrood seat, meaning that the ward continues to have three councillors from the party – however this was the Lib Dem’s only win of the night.

He said: "We’re pleased to have retained Holyrood Ward and will do our best to hold the Labour-run Council to account and get the best deal for residents.

"It is disappointing to have failed to win St Mary’s ward by the narrowest of margins for the second time.

"We’ll continue fighting to make sure wards like St Mary’s get the strong representation they need at the Town Hall."