The Conservatives’ dominance at Lincolnshire County Council has been eroded to a marginal lead after UKIP’s predicted uptake proved even greater than first imagined at yesterday’s local elections.
In the Standard’s patch, the swing was even more pronounced as Skegness North and South went to UKIP’s Dean and Robin Hunter-Clarke, the father-son duo, Spilsby Fen was taken by the party’s Victoria Ayling and Chris Pain took victory in the Wainfleet and Burgh ward.
Speaking after his victory, Coun Pain said: “I’ve been out on the streets for the past four weeks and the reaction from people has been that they are looking for change - to the extent that, had this been a general election, we would now have a UKIP MP.
“It’s time that people realised we are the party that is representing what people are actually concerned about and which the other parties aren’t event touching on.”
Throughout the night, the wary unease among Conservative seat-holders, unsure of how significant the UKIP inroads would be, grew into a palpable panic as one ward after another fell from their control.
Long serving Conservative councillors Neil Cooper, Ken Milner and Jim Swanson each lost their seats in Wainfleet and Burgh, Skegness South and Spilsby Fen and Councillors Mark Smith and Graham Marsh also lost out in Skegness North and Alford and Sutton.
Ingoldmells Rural was the only ward where a Conservative councillor increased their majority, with Colin Davie taking more than half the vote.
He has thanked the Ingoldmells electorate for their support, though he and several of his outgoing Conservative colleagues hold grave concerns about the dramatic changes to the overall balance of power throughout Lincolnshire.
“National politics have unduly influenced the local election, now it will be up to those councillors to try and figure out a way forward for the people of Lincolnshire,” said Coun Davie.
“It was the voters’ decision - let us pray that they don’t live to regret it.”
With no party holding a decisive majority, outgoing Conservative councillor Mark Smith, who lost his Skegness North seat to UKIP’s Dean Hunter-Clarke, fears the county will stagnate.
And with no Skegness representation on the marginally dominant Conservative Party, he is particularly fearful for the coastal town.
“My worry is the county, district and town councils are likely to become incredibly disjointed so it’s going to be very difficult to operate an effective working relationship,” he said.
“It’s going to be disastrous for Skegness in terms of development over the next four years.”
Labour made significant gains in Lincoln, though they failed to capitalise on UKIP’s division of the right of centre vote.
The Skegness and Wainfleet Labour Party branch chairman who was standing in SKegness North has also attributed the outcome on national politics having an undue impact on local issues.
“What do they really think UKIP can do in terms of immigration at a county level?” she asked.
Alford and Sutton transferred from the Conservatives to Lincolnshire Independent candidate Steve Palmer, who praised his electorate for focusing on local rather than national issues.
Overall, the Conservatives are down 25 seats on 36; UKIP are up from zero to 16; Labour are up six on 10; Lincolnshire Independents are up four on eight; Liberal Democrats are down two on three; Labour and Co-op are on two. There are also two candidates independent from any party or group.