The Conservatives have lost their overall majority on South Gloucestershire Council as opposition parties made big gains at their expense at the local elections.
The Tories have been the ruling group for eight years but suffered several major losses to leave no one party in cverall control.
They ended up with 23 councillors – down by 10 from the last elections in 2019 – with 36% of the vote, two points above the Lib Dems (34%), who won 20 seats, an increase of three.
Labour gained six seats to take them from 11 to 17 members and received 24% of the vote.
One independent was also elected.
All three groups fell well short of the required 31 seats for an overall majority, and a coalition between Labour and the Lib Dems now seems the likeliest outcome, although no official agreement has yet been made and talks are now expected.
The biggest shock on a night of surprises and change was the Conservatives losing cabinet member Steve Reade.
He fell just 13 votes short of fellow cabinet member Cllr Ben Stokes, elected in second place in Boyd Valley behind Lib Dem Marilyn Palmer, who overturned the party’s 18 per cent deficit from four years ago.
With Labour enjoying a healthy lead in opinion polls, national trends were reflected in many of the 28 wards’ results with massive swings in their favour.
The party gained seats from the Tories in Bradley Stoke South, Charlton & Cribbs, Emersons Green, Filton, Hanham and Stoke Gifford.
As well as Boyd Valley, the Lib Dems ousted one Conservative in each of Frenchay & Downend, Severn Vale and Pilning & Severn Beach, where they had finished fifth and last in 2019
The Tories, by contrast, managed to gain just one seat held by another party, taking one of the two available in Chipping Sodbury & Cotswold Edge from the Lib Dems.
Independent candidate Isobel Walker took Patchway Coniston from Labour.
The turnout was 34 per cent – up by two per cent from the last local elections.
The outgoing Conservative leader of South Gloucestershire Council has called the local elections result “clearly disappointing” but says they show the district’s party is “outperforming” their counterparts in Government.
Speaking to the Local Democracy Reporting Service at the election count at Thornbury leisure centre in the early hours of Friday, May 5, as the result became apparent, Mr Savage said: “It’s clearly a disappointing evening for the Conservatives in South Gloucestershire and it’s clearly the case that national issues are impacting on these local polls.
“I feel desperately sad for colleagues who have lost seats because of those national factors.
“I thank them for the work they’ve done over many years to serve their communities.
“I’m encouraged that a number of colleagues have been returned in wards that might well have fallen to the opposition parties were they to be tracking the national position, which suggests that South Gloucestershire Conservatives are outperforming the Conservatives nationally.”
Mr Savage, who is retiring from local politics following the recent birth of his second child, said: “I am incredibly grateful for the opportunity I’ve had to serve my home area, the place where I was born and brought up.
“There is no greater honour than that.
“I’m pleased with what we have been able to achieve together in making South Gloucestershire an even better place to live, work and visit, and that performance has been recognised in the local election results.”
Asked what he thought would happen next at the council with no single group having an overall majority, he said: “Labour has a policy of not going into coalition with the Conservatives.
“So the only two permutations are either a minority Conservative administration or a Lib Dem-Labour coalition.”
By Adam Postans, Local Democracy Reporting Service
Picture: Labour candidates and campaigners celebrate winning both Filton seats at the South Gloucestershire Council local elections.