Conservatives in charge at Town Hall, South Hams and Teignbridge

HERALD EXPRESS

TORIES were victorious across South Devon yesterday as they reinforced their political grip in Torbay and the South Hams and took power in Teignbridge local elections.

In Torbay the Tories increased their lead from 21 to 22 of the 36 councillors.

Lib-Dems dropped by one seat to nine councillors, three independents took seats in Berry Head with Furzeham and a Labour and UKIP both took one seat each.

New Tory elected mayor and group leader Gordon Oliver said the polls had been almost impossible to call due to the coalition, national policies and the number of mayoral and council candidates.

But he said: "We have done far better with our unified policies as councillors and mayor. Taking that into account we have strengthened the vote in putting forward the policies we have pursued."

Lib-Dem group leader Cllr Steve Darling said: "Compared with other areas where we are looking at a significant wipeout it's an endorsement for us locally on a very bad night elsewhere."

The final result in the St Mary's with Summercombe ward did not come in until 5.15pm after a second recount which saw sitting Tory Terry Manning ousted.

Lib-Dem Andrew Baldrey and new Conservative candidate Matthew James took the two seats.

Other notable shocks in the Bay saw longstanding Lib-Dem Cllr Colin Charlwood lose his seat in Shiphay with The Willows after 18 years.

In the South Hams the Conservatives came away with 30 seats — three more than they started the day.

They came at the expense of the Lib Dems who watched their nine seats shrink to just five. Greens took three with one Labour and one Independent.

Biggest upset was in Totnes where Anne Ward lost her Lib Dem seat to the Greens by just three votes.

But the Liberal Democrats also said goodbye to Eastmoor which was lost to Tory candidate and farmer Peter Smerdon.

Teignbridge District Council turned blue yesterday after the Tories seized 26 of the authority's 46 seats in the local elections.

The extent of the Tories control was not revealed until the last count was declared in the local elections yesterday afternoon.

The Liberal Democrats saw their support slashed by almost 40 per cent, losing seven of their 20 seats.

They won 13 seats and the Independents won seven.

Elated new leader elect and Tory group leader Cllr Jeremy Christophers said: "We will find a bar and celebrate."

Ousted Liberal Democrat leader Alan Connett said he felt 'empty', but said he was proud of what his party had achieved during its eight years in power.

In Torbay opposing the Churston Golf Club lease issue proved a vote winner according to re-elected Tory Cllr Derek Mills who was voted back in with his majority increased by around 300.

He said: "I am absolutely delighted. I have worked hard within the ward on all issues.

"I have supported RAGS because 300 people asked me to do so and I will work hard for everyone in the ward."

Newly elected Tory councillor Ken Pritchard is presently chairman of the ward's community partnership but says he is to stand down after his election victory.

He said: "I am very pleased. I didn't expect to win but I am looking forward to the work enormously."

He takes over from former Conservative councillor Anna Tolchard who did not stand for re-election.

In the South Hams Kingsbridge's Westville and Alvington seat went from Lib Dem to Tory as did one of the Erme Valley seats.

Labour managed to win back the one seat it held before the last election but that was in Dartmouth where Benjamin Cooper saw off independent Francis Hawke.

Labour's hopes of winning back the seat on the Totnes town ward they lost four years ago were well and truly dashed by the Greens.

Mike Hicks, the vice chairman of the Totnes Conservative who himself won a seat in the Allington and Loddiswell ward, said: "I am delighted. We have really worked hard and we have achieved an increased majority."

Former council leader John Tucker, who took on the Greens and the Lib-Dems to retain his West Dart seat added: "I couldn't ask for more."

Torbay leadership of the Conservative group is likely to be decided at a meeting next week.