The Conservatives have won the most seats on Nottinghamshire County Council – but fell short of gaining a controlling majority in a dramatically close local election.
The Conservatives, having recorded significant gains in other local elections across the UK, were ahead at the halfway point in declarations by 12 noon on Friday.
By 1pm they had secured 30 council seats, just four short of gaining overall control, while the Labour group lagged behind on 15.
But as results came in Labour held firm, and recovered to win 23 seats in total, preventing the Conservatives from winning the magic number of 34, which would have given them overall control of the authority.
— Chris Breese (@ChrisBNottsTV) May 5, 2017
The result is a shift from Labour to Tory – with Labour winning the most seats last time out.
Voters in Nottinghamshire went to the polls on Thursday (May 4) as part of 88 council and mayoral elections being held five weeks before the general election.
Results were announced on Friday, ward by ward. Turnout overall was 35.2 per cent.
Up for grabs was control of County Hall, West Bridgford, and public services outside of the Nottingham city boundary.
Conservative leader Kay Cutts said: “I was nervous because there is so much riding on this. We [the party] had so much to prove.
“I think the swing is down to Jeremy Corbyn, [Labour party leader] on the doorstep people don’t like him and I think some people have voted Conservative for the first time in this election.
“Also Theresa May launched our campaign in Nottinghamshire and I think her support in that way has helped tremendously.”
Her party will not seek to form a coalition to try to gain overall control of the council, she added, and will form an administration without holding an overall majority.
She said: “We’re going to make sure the council’s assets work for us, we’re going to have big schemes and big plans and send the message that Nottinghamshire is open for business.”
Crucially, Labour held all of their seven county seats in Gedling – which the Conservatives had targeted as key to securing a majority.
Michael Payne, deputy leader of the Labour-led Gedling Borough Council, who also won the Arnold North seat on the County Council, said: “Gedling Labour bucks the trend yet again. We won’t let local people down.”
County Labour group leader Alan Rhodes said: “Clearly it’s very disappointing but not really unexpected.
“We do a lot of talking on the doorstep and we knew in many of our core areas that Labour was coming up against it.
“But I’m proud of our group. Every member has behaved impeccably and I don’t think the result reflects on this administration.
“There’s a lot of negativity around the party and party leadership.”
When asked if he blamed Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership directly, he added: “I think blame is not a word I want to use. I don’t want to say anything harmful.
“People can’t absolve themselves of responsibility.”