Election results: Tory councillors distance themselves from PM

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Conservative councillors tried to distance themselves from Theresa May and the government

Conservative councillors have criticised Theresa May after losing hundreds of seats in the local elections.A council leader who lost his majority said the prime minister should “consider her position” and others said they made gains “despite” the government.The Conservatives and Labour lost out to smaller parties and independents.There are reports of spoilt ballots referring to Brexit in some areas.Elections for more than 8,400 seats on 248 councils took place amid widespread criticism of MPs and the government over the handling of Brexit.Live election results from your area
Main parties hit by Brexit backlash in polls
The Conservatives, who were defending council seats they won in 2015, alongside the party’s general election victory, were at pains to stress the vote was about local services and council tax rather than what was happening at Westminster.However, by Friday morning they had lost out mainly to the Liberal Democrats and independents on councils such as Cotswold, Winchester and North Kesteven.The Greens have also won dozens of seats including in Folkestone and Hythe, where they have six new councillors.Labour have also been losing seats, including in strongholds such as Bolsover, where they lost their majority amid a surge in support for independents.

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Tony Berry wants Theresa May to consider her position after losing control of Cotswold District Council

The Tories lost Cotswold District Council after 16 years, with the Liberal Democrats now in charge.Conservative group leader Tony Berry said it was a “very unusual set of circumstances”.He blamed Brexit and “professional politicians who are basically working for themselves rather than necessarily what is best for the country”.Asked his message to Theresa May, he said: “I would ask her to consider her position very carefully.”

Brexit protest on spoilt papersHundreds of ballot papers were spoiled in Rugby, according to the borough’s returning officer.Adam Norburn said many had “Brexit” scrawled across them.There were also reports of a “larger than normal” number of spoilt ballots in Ipswich.And in one ward in Broxtowe, Nottinghamshire, almost one in 20 ballots was spoilt.Candidates at the count told the Local Democracy Reporting Service many comments written on the papers related to Brexit.There were 33 spoilt votes out of 673 in the Eastwood Hall ward.In North Norfolk, 563 people spoiled their papers.It is not illegal to spoil a ballot paper, but filling it out incorrectly or covering it with graffiti will render it invalid.

In Bath and North East Somerset, where the Liberal Democrats won control, Tory casualties included the council leader Tim Warren.Mr Warren said councillors had been “given a kicking for something that wasn’t our fault”.Asked whether there needed to be changes in leadership or policies at the top of the Conservative Party, Mr Warren replied: “There needs to be a change in action.”

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LDRS

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Mike Bird said the Conservatives won control at Walsall “despite” the government

In Walsall, the Conservatives took control of the council after winning seats from Labour, having run the authority for a year without a majority.Council leader Mike Bird said the Tories won “despite” the Conservative government and Theresa May.”She hasn’t helped us make any gains at all – far from it – we made the gains despite the prime minister.”In North East Lincolnshire, another Tory gain, group leader Philip Jackson said the party “managed to disengage national politics from what was happening locally”.

Key developments:The Liberal Democrats have taken councils including Winchester, North Norfolk, Bath and North East Somerset

The Conservatives have lost councils including Peterborough, Basildon and St Albans, where the council leader also lost his seat
Labour lost the Middlesbrough mayor post to an independent
The Conservatives have won Walsall and North East Lincolnshire and are set to take control of Dudley

Labour have won control of Trafford

However, the party has lost control of authorities including Hartlepool and Wirral

Independents took control of Ashfield District Council and became the main opposition in Nottingham.
UKIP lost all its councillors in Boston but gained three seats in Sunderland.

‘That lot in Westminster’Labour’s leader in Leeds said councillors were bearing the brunt of “anger and frustration” about national politics.Judith Blake said the party had been “punished locally” after losing four seats on the city council, while retaining control.Labour also lost seats in Wakefield to the Liberal Democrats and independents. Councillor Graham Isherwood said the party was “paying the price for that lot in Westminster”.In Ashfield, Nottinghamshire, a group of independents won an overall majority, a month after taking control from Labour.Jason Zadrozny, leader of the Ashfield Independents, said politics had been “a bit of a mess”.In North Devon, where the Lib Dems won control of the council from the Conservatives and independents, the group’s leader David Worden said: “It was a tremendous night for us and shows that the Lib Dem fight back is well and truly happening.”The Lib Dems also won a 20-seat majority in North Norfolk, something the party’s leader in the district Sarah Butikofer said was beyond the party’s “wildest dreams”.

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