A LIB DEM wipe out on North East Lincolnshire Council allowed Labour to take control for the first time in nearly a decade.
The last time North East Lincolnshire Council was in Labour hands was 2003 – when Labour council leader Chris Shaw joined the council.
Of Labour’s five gains, four came from the Liberal Democrats – including group deputy leader Geoff Lowis’s seat – and one from the Conservatives.
Growing support for the UK Independence Party (UKIP) saw it take its first seat on the council from the Conservatives.
Coun Shaw said: “Park ward (Geoff Lowis’s seat) is normally a ward we come fourth in, but we came in first and we put the Conservatives into third place. (Taking control) is going to improve the council, we are going to be able to get decisions to protect vulnerable people and get people into work, without having to kowtow to other political parties.”
Ron Shepherd, who took Scartho for UKIP from the Conservatives, said it was a major breakthrough: “Our results were fantastic. Everybody increased their votes and hopefully in a couple of years time I won’t be on my own.”
Turnout reflected national figures and was well down on the previous year, from about 34 per cent to 27 per cent.
Mr Lowis said in northern industrial towns the Lib Dems were beginning to become a “toxic brand like the Tories once were”.
He said: “You try and fight local elections on local issues but it is pointless really. If the electorate had any confidence they would come out and they just stayed at home.”
He added: “It is dispiriting really – I think while the Coalition lasts we are going to get beaten out of sight in places like Grimsby.”
Lib Dem leader Andrew de Freitas said a referendum needed to be held on Europe: “The problem we have had in North East Lincolnshire is the growing support for UKIP. I think we should have had a referendum to get the European issue out of the way and that would have resolved it.
“If we had had a referendum on Europe two years ago I am sure all the main parties would have campaigned to stay in the European Union and it wouldn’t remain a big issue where people come out in large numbers and vote for UKIP.”