A remarkable result in Rotherham saw the Tories go from zero seats to 20, making them the main opposition party as well as meaning the ruling Labour group only just held onto their majority and control of the borough council.
On a weekend where a national swing to the Conservatives ratcheted up the pressure on the party’s leader Sir Keir Starmer, opposition groups in Yorkshire hoped to win councillors on the region’s Labour-held authorities.
In Wakefield, Labour lost seven seats and saw its majority cut to 11, while in Doncaster the party lost four seats from 2017, three to the Conservatives and one to Edlington & Warmsworth First.
Elsewhere, on councils like Leeds, Calderdale and Bradford, there were no major changes and Labour retained control, while Kirklees remains in no overall control as Labour failed to gain enough seats to build an outright majority.
Meanwhile the Labour police and crime commissioner for Humberside, Keith Hunter, hit out at what he described as the party’s lack of policies and direction nationally after he was ousted by a Conservative who only entered the race a few days earlier.
Former detective Mr Hunter, who won a 24,000 majority when he was elected in 2016, said: “Labour don’t have any policies, you can’t have a major party going into an election with any policies. It’s like having a shop with an empty front window and hoping that someone will enter.”
The biggest shift in Yorkshire and the Humber was in Rotherham, where Labour clung on to control of the council by two seats. The election, the first for Rotherham Metropolitan Borough Council since 2016, was expected to be highly volatile, in part due to boundary changes meaning four fewer councillors were being elected.
The Rotherham Democratic Party stood 40 candidates across the borough and the Conservatives doubled their number of nominations to 42.
Dinnington ward saw a big swing, with three Labour councillors unseated by three Conservatives. And Conservative Emily Barley won the Hoober seat from Labour with 873 votes, just one more than her nearest rival, after two recounts.
She said: “We are delighted. We hoped we’d make gains, but this was more than we expected. This gives us a bigger platform to hold Labour to account.”
Amongst Labour’s losses were the deputy leader Gordon Watson, the mayor’s consort Jeanette Mallinder and John Vjestica, who sat on numerous committees including planning, standards and ethics and licensing. However, Labour still took the majority and retained overall hold of the council, which was cemented following the election of councillors Alan Atkin and Sheila Cowen for Wath.
In Bradford, Labour remain in power and has the majority it needed to run the district during one of the most significant periods of its history.
Like all areas of the country, Bradford faces a period where it will need to recover from the devastating impacts of Covid-19.
It will do so with the Labour Party at the helm, after the party held onto enough seats to buck trends seen nationally of a collapse in support in some areas.
After the latest round of elections the party has 51 seats on the 90-seat council, down from 52 seats in 2019, while the Conservatives gained three seats.
The council’s decision-making executive will need a makeover after Councillor Adrian Farley, the portfolio holder for children and families, lost his Keighley West seat by just six votes.
And former Conservative leader John Pennington lost his seat in Bingley, a Conservative stronghold, to Labour candidate Marcus Peter Dearden.
Labour also retained control of Calderdale Council, holding seven of the eight seats it was defending and gaining another to compensate for the loss, meaning it will also retain its five seat majority over other parties and groups to control the council.
Council leader Tim Swift saiid he was delighted at his party’s performance. “Particularly given the national context our number one priority was to retain an overall majority and we have done that,” he said.
Conservative group leader Steven Leigh said an important role he expected to play in the coming weeks and months was actively lobbying against the draft Local Plan, with the third series of hearings set to begin.
Kirklees Council is still under no overall control after Labour failed to gain enough seats to build an outright majority.
The balance of power is now Labour 33 councillors, Conservatives 19, Liberal Democrats nine, Greens three and Independents five.
Councillor John Taylor for the Conservatives said the result in the district showed that the public wants “change in Kirklees.”
He added: “We are really pleased that we have increased the number of Conservative councillors and that the Conservative vote was up to 38 per cent across the borough against Labour’s 35 per cent. I’m looking forward to working with other parties in changing Kirklees.”
With Labour lacking an overall majority the Greens’ Andrew Cooper said it was time to begin a conversation with other parties.
Labour’s leader in Leeds said his party members’ hard work during the pandemic has paid off as his group comfortably kept control of the city council.
The party bucked the trend seen in the rest of the UK by making only minimal losses in the city, while one senior councillor held onto her seat by just a dozen votes.
However, the leader of the Leeds Conservatives claimed the share of Labour’s vote had “collapsed”, despite his party gaining only one seat on the authority.
Labour went into the contest with 54 seats and left with the same number - winning back two vacant Roundhay seats, and losing Ardsley and Robin Hood, and Morley South to the Conservatives and Morley Borough Independents respectively.
Additional reporting by Local Democracy Reporters Tony Earnshaw, Chris Young, Richard Beecham and John Greenwood.