Blue wall crumbles as Conservatives lose control of councils on dramatic election day
The Conservative blue wall in Norfolk and Waveney has crumbled, after voters gave Tories a bruising experience at the ballot box.
In a dramatic day of district, borough and city election counts, four councils are now under no overall control, while the Tory leader of Broadland District Council lost his seat.
The Conservatives lost overall control of Broadland, Great Yarmouth, West Norfolk and East Suffolk councils, with the Greens, Liberal Democrats and Labour celebrating varying degrees of success.
At Broadland, Shaun Vincent, who had led the council since 2018, was beaten in his Plumstead seat by Green James Harvey.
And Mr Vincent, who looked on as his party lost seven seats and control, blamed the failings of the Conservatives nationally for his defeat, taking a swipe at South West Norfolk MP Liz Truss's stint as prime minister.
He said the national picture had an "unfortunate impact" on the local elections. He said: "Liz Truss has done us no favours, her short term as prime minister has fueled the cost of living crisis, but we have a new prime minister who is working hard and successfully to deliver on his promises."
The Conservatives were left with 21 seats on Broadland, the Lib Dems added two to reach 14, Labour gained six to increase to eight, while the Greens doubled their numbers from two to four.
The Tories also lost overall control of Great Yarmouth. A late recount in Yarmouth North meant they ended with 19 seats, down two. Labour added four to reach 18, while the independents went down from four to two.
Carl Smith, leader of the borough council, said: "The council has been decided by one vote.
"I am disappointed we didn’t keep control of the council, but we’re still the largest party. And we’ve always worked together across parties. Hopefully, that will continue.
"Politics is about listening to other people's views and moving forward. And it's really important we work together."
At West Norfolk, rival parties were locked in coalition talks after the Tories lost overall control of the borough council.
And the Conservatives also relinquished control of East Suffolk Council, with the Greens now having the most seats on the authority.
The council is now under no overall control, with the Greens on 16 seats, the Tories 15, Labour 12, the Liberal Democrats 11 and one independent.
And the Greens took control of Mid Suffolk - the first time they have had sole control of an English council. It means the Tories do not control any district councils in Suffolk.
In Norwich, Labour retained control, but lost two divisions - Wensum and Sewell - to the Greens. Green Liam Calvert beat Labour's Laura McCartney-Gray by 22 votes in Wensum, while Gillian Francis defeated Julie Brociek-Coulton in Sewell.
Alan Waters, who had announced before the election he would be standing down as Labour leader and city councillor, said: "We have got a lot to reflect on, on why we didn’t win those seats and where our campaigns [didn’t break through] and where we need to improve."
In South Norfolk, the Conservatives retained control, but suffered losses. The Tories lost eight seats, down from 32 to 24. Labour, who had just one South Norfolk councillor before the counts, went up to nine, while the Lib Dems made one gain to get to 10.
Tories also kept hold of Breckland District Council, but with diminished numbers, down from 36 to 30, with Labour the main beneficiaries, gaining five.
North Norfolk District Council held its count on Friday morning. The Liberal Democrats, who were already in control of the authority, claimed 25 of the 40 seats across north Norfolk's 32 wards.
Tim Adams, the Lib Dem leader of the council, said: "People are under a lot of strain with the cost-of-living crisis, they’re concerned about the environment and the future. I think a lot of those factors played into our victory today."