The Conservatives have retained control of Northamptonshire County Council after a predicted threat from UKIP failed to result in the expected number of seats.
The Tories went into Thursday’s election with a large majority and left it with 25 more seats than Labour, their closest rivals.
Early on in Friday’s count, politicians from all parties said they thought UKIP would secure anything up to 12 seats, with a particularly strong showing expected in south Northamptonshire,
But in the end, the Euro-sceptic party secured only three seats - just two more than they had before the vote.
The leader of the Conservatives, Councillor Jim Harker (Con, Ise), who secured his seat by finishing just 174 votes ahead of UKIP, was clearly relieved his party had secured such a large majority.
Discussing the financial pressures the council will face over the coming four years, he said: “It’s been a very exciting and interesting afternoon. I’m really pleased the people of Northamptonshire have seen fit to retain a Conservative administration for another four years - which will be our third term in office.
“I think that’s because people realise these are difficult times, finances are really strained and we’ve a lot of challenging issues to face up to.
“And I’m really pleased the people of Northamptonshire, despite all these pressures, realised this was a local government election on local issues.
“We’re all concerned about national issues, but at the end of the day, that’s not what people voted for.”
The election saw the Conservatives secure 36 seats, Labour 11, the Liberal Democrats six, UKIP three and one independent.
The vote saw a disappointingly low turnout, with less than 31 per cent of the people of Northamptonshire voting.
The new leader of the opposition at County Hall, Labour councillor, John McGhee (Lab, Kingswood) said however that he was not disappointed to gain only a handful of seats.
He said: “The people who have got elected for us have got a long, hard job ahead over the next four years to hold the Conservatives to account.
“We’ll be a strong opposition and we will hold them to account.”
As the results came in, it looked as though the Liberal Democrats may have been all but wiped out at County Hall, but a late surge saw the party secure six seats.
Group leader, Councillor Brendan Glynane (Lib Dem, Delapre & Rushmere), said: “We’ve had the past four years of holding the Conservatives to account, and for the next four, we’ll still do that.
“We’ll also be looking to make gains at the Northampton Borough Council election in two year’s time.”
For the first time, there will be four parties with multiple councillors at County Hall after UKIP secured three seats.
The party’s Euro MP for the East Midland, Derek Clark, said: “We would have liked a lot more seats. I was hoping for half a dozen-plus.
“But what is encouraging is we have an enormous number of second places, and we are close up behind.
“The hope for the future is tremendous. There are people here who weren’t even party members four years ago. We know we have the basis to really move forward.”
Neither the Green Party, BNP, English Democrats or Trade Unionists and Socialist Coalition secured any seats on the council.
The only independent to be elected was Councillor Christopher Groome (Ind, Burton & Broughton).