THE Conservative Party clung onto majority control of Swindon Council by just one seat as Labour snatched victories in the all-out local elections.
The party had hoped for 33 seats out of the 57 available but only achieved 29, with Labour securing 24 and the Lib Dems staying on four. A total of nine Tory councillors lost their seats.
Normally only one third of seats are available in Swindon at any given election, but Thursday saw every seat up for grabs because of re-drawn ward boundaries.
Previously there were 59 ward boundaries and the Tories had a healthy majority, holding 37 seats, compared to 17 Labour, four Lib Dem, and one independent.
Council leader Rod Bluh, blamed the knock-down partly on the new ward boundaries and people splitting their three votes in some wards between different parties.
He said: “Because of the boundary changes, our majority was always going to be reduced, even if the votes hadn’t changed. We now have a smaller majority than we had hoped.
“We were looking for 33 seats but because of four having a split result, we’re down to 29. So we’re down to a one majority, but we’re still the administration for the next two years, which was our goal. It’s not going to be so tightly-managed, but that’s what politics is all about.”
Labour did not achieve its aim of taking majority control of the council, but took seats in the previously historically-Conservative areas now covered by the new wards of Covingham and Dorcan, Lydiard and Freshbrook, and Old Town.
Coun Jim Grant, Labour group leader, said: “I’m very pleased that we’ve made seven gains and reduced the Conservative majority to one.
“Clearly, we were hoping to make more gains but I think it’s a starting point to us to move forward and take overall control in 2014.”
The Lib Dems maintained their heartland Eastcott ward, despite coming within 350 votes of losing one of the three seats to Labour’s Chris Watts. The Lib Dems lost a seat in Penhill but gained one in Wroughton and Wichelstowe.
Group leader, Stan Pajak, said the party’s strategy was based on local issues, basic council services, and keeping people informed and consulted, rather than national issues.
Commenting on the effect locally of the coalition government’s performance, he said: “We did have the extra challenge but we overcame it and it was all power to us. People were saying ‘We want to send a message to the Government’ but they were outnumbered by the number of people who wanted to vote on local issues.”
In three-member wards, the candidate with the most votes will stand for four years, the one with the second most will stand for three, and the one with the third most will stand for two.
The Ridgeway councillor will serve a full term but, in the Chiseldon and Lawn ward, the highest scoring candidate will retire after three years and the other will retire after two to tie in with parish elections.