Norfolk voters deliver a landslide verdict

Voters delivered a landslide verdict on who should run Norfolk County Council yesterday with the Tories winning 60 of the 84 seats and Labour slumping to fourth place.

Voters delivered a landslide verdict on who should run Norfolk County Council yesterday with the Tories winning 60 of the 84 seats and Labour slumping to fourth place.

Labour now has three seats, losing 19 of its 22 divisions as its vote collapsed losing all their seats in King's Lynn, Thetford and Dereham, keeping only two seats in Norwich, and one in Yarmouth. The party slumped to 13.78pc of the vote, and must find a new leader as Sue Whita-ker was among those swept away.

The Lib Dems, with 22.68pc of the vote, are now the official opposition group, but despite some gains in Wells, Mundesley and Thetford West, losses elsewhere meant it was as an as-you-were result with the party staying on 13 seats.

Meanwhile, the Greens performed well in Norwich, holding the most county divisions in Norwich with seven seats - up from two and finishing with 10.87pc of the vote.

And Norfolk also has its first UKIP county councillor after Rex Parkin-son-Hare won in the Yarmouth division of Nelson and Southtown, taking the seat from Labour. The party, which has 4.55pc of the vote, also finished in second place in nearby Gorleston St Andrews, and Lothingland, as well as Sprowston, Old Catton and Hellesdon.

But despite fears that the far right BNP would win a seat, the victory never materialised as the party only polled 0.83pc of the overall vote.

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The result is a triumph for Tory council leader Daniel Cox, who has seen the party gain 13 seats and secure 45.91pc of the vote.

“It's quite a landslide victory for the Conservatives in Norfolk,” he said. “I am absolutely delighted, it means a lot to me personally to see the level of support that we have got and the recognition of the hard work the Conservatives have put in across the county.”

But the victory could be short-lived if, as expected, Mr Cox faces a leadership challenge when the Tories hold their annual meeting today.

Newly-elected William Nunn, the current Breckland Council leader who won in Guiltcross, admitted last night he was “considering” standing against Mr Cox - and also confirmed he would like to succeed South West Norfolk MP Christopher Fraser.

Another former district council leader winning yesterday was West Norfolk's John Dobson, who was victorious in Dersingham.

But there was no success for Broadland District Council leader Simon Woodbridge who failed to beat sitting Lib Dem councillor James Joyce at Reepham.

Lib Dem opposition leader Paul Morse said: “Given the national picture, I'm pleased with the result. We are the main opposition party, and in North Norfolk took seats off the Tories and increased our majori-ties in a number of seats. It's going to be a different sort of council - clearly there is a huge Tory majority and there are a lot of people coming in from the districts. It will be inter-esting to see how unified they are and who their next leader will be.”

Andrew Boswell, Green group leader, said he was delighted by his party's result. “We need local author-ities to take the Green message seriously,” he said. “It's an incred-ible outcome for us. And it's reached the stage where our support across Norwich South means we have a really strong chance of unseating Charles Clarke at the next election.”

Ms Whitaker said she was trying to be philosophical about the result but said her group had been caught up in nationwide backlash against Labour.

“We've all been swept up in what's happening nationally,” she said. “A lot of people were very angry over the last two or three weeks over the MPs' expenses, and a lot of people were also angry over the way Ian Gibson has been treated. We spent all that time putting a manifesto together and we may as well not have bothered.”