ELECTION 2019: Liberal Democrats celebrate North Norfolk victory, though Conservatives hang on in South Holland
The Liberal Democrats are the big winners so far in the local elections after they swept to control of North Norfolk District Council overnight.
The party won 30 out of the 40 seats on the authority with the Conservatives reduced to just six councillors.
The result capped a miserable four years for the Tories in the district.
In 2015, they held a huge majority on the council, winning 33 of the available 48 seats.
However, since then they have seen several resignations, defections to the Liberal Democrats and, in November, lost control of the council through a no-confidence vote.
Several senior members of the Tory group now find themselves no longer on the council, including group leader John Lee.
He said: “A lot of hard-working, long-serving, Conservative district councillors have lost their seats through no fault of their own.
“I am shocked and bitterly disappointed by the results.”
Mr Lee said he felt much of the swing against the Conservatives had been as a result of the national political climate, rather than local issues.
He added: “I think we’re the ones who are receiving the bloody nose for the mess that is Westminster.
“Labour and the Conservatives are obviously in a mess because of the Brexit debacle which should have been delivered a long time ago. I guess parties like the Lib Dems, UKIP and whoever else are going to gain from that.”
However, the decline of the Tories in the north of the county is something that has been going on for some time.
While the party won 33 seats in 2015, it was going into the election with just 19, the same number as their Liberal Democrat counterparts.
This was down to several members resigning from the party and others defecting to the Lib Dems over issues such as a proposed enterprise zone in Egmere.
Meanwhile, Lib Dem group leader Sarah Butikofer said the result was beyond the party’s wildest dreams.
She said: “We thought we would do well but never in our wildest dreams thought it would be this good.
“It’s wonderful that the people of north Norfolk have put their trust in us and we need to start working straight away to deliver for them.
“We’ve had all the fighting going on up here, but that has been going on nationally too. It is time for a change and time to start working together for everyone in north Norfolk.”
But there has been better news for the Tories in South Holland, where they retained control of the council, despite gains for Independent candidates.
Counting in West Norfolk and Breckland is due to begin later this morning.
Results in wards within our area are as follows:
Lancaster North: Christopher Cushing (Con) 250, Sean Mears (Lib Dem) 200.
Lancaster South (two seats): Jeremy Punchard (Ind) 573, John Rest (Ind) 470, Annie Claussen-Reynolds (Con) 451, Roy Reynolds (Con) 417, Imogen Bruce (Lab) 214.
The Raynhams: Nigel Housden (Ind) 240, Becky Palmer (Con) 220, Sue Traverso (Lib Dem) 104.
Walsingham: Tom FitzPatrick (Con) 395, Simon Hester (Ind) 228, Andraste Tiplady (Lib Dem) 132.
Wells with Holkham: Peter Fisher (Lib Dem) 307, David Mack (Con) 202, Michael Gates (Lab) 199.
Sutton Bridge (two seats): Michael Booth (Ind) 686, Chris Brewis (Ind) 686, Victoria Hills (Con) 280, Sally Beal (Con) 176.