Labour suffered a shock defeat in Stoke-on-Trent in the latest council by-elections.
Jackie Barnes, of the City Independents, the authority’s largest opposition group, triumphed in Springfields and Trent Vale.
She fought the ward last year under the Community Voice banner.
Labour won a landslide majority in the main 2011 election but the council had previously been under no overall control for many years.
Tories were relieved to defend two vacancies at Norfolk’s Breckland District after a close call in another ward there last week.
Analysis of 14 comparable contests in July suggests a projected 5.8 per cent nationwide Labour lead over Conservatives.
A calculation based on eight wards fought both times by all three major parties gives a line-up of: Labour 33.9 per cent, Conservatives 31.1 per cent, and the Liberal Democrats 20.0 per cent.