Dudley election: Conservatives retain control as Labour makes gains
Dudley Council remains in Conservative hands but Labour laid down a marker for the next two years by gaining three seats.
The leaders of the Tories and Labour both claimed it was a successful night with Labour winning three new seats and the Conservatives increasing their total to 46 councillors to Labour's 26.
The Liberal Democrats even claimed success by beating the Conservatives into third place after a tight race in Cradley and Wollescote.
The biggest scalp of the night for Labour was cabinet member for health Nick Barlow being beaten by Cat Eccles in Wollaston and Stourbridge Town.
Her victory led to the biggest cheer of the night as Labour councillors, members and activists congratulated their candidate finally winning office after several failed campaigns.
The closest election was in St James's where Labour's Khurshid Ahmed lost by just seven votes to Sarah Bothul.
Labour leader, Netherton Councillor Qadar Zada told the Express & Star: "This has been a successful night. We gained Upper Gornal, Wollaston and Halesowen North.
"What we found on the doorstep was a lot of people are very unhappy about what this Government is doing in Westminster and this translated to the ballot box tonight.
"People are upset by the betrayal of Partygate and the lack of assistance with the cost of living."
He added: "Last year we said we would go on a listening campaign, see what they had to say and offer an alternative. That is what we have done, listened to the people of Dudley and a year in we have made gains already and puts us in a strong position in the next couple of years."
Labour stalwart Hilary Bills returned to elected office after losing her seat last year by beating Conservative Joe Roberts in Halesowen North.
She said: "I am so grateful to be a councillor again, it has been a fascinating time, I did not stop working just because I lost last year. I am so grateful to everyone who voted for me.
"My priorities are a car park for Shell Corner, Hurst Green Park and Long Lane Library children's play area."
In Norton the Conservatives regained the seat they had lost after the previous incumbent left the party. Tony Creed has become a councillor for the first time aged 76 after a career in the metal bashing industry in Cradley Heath.
He said: "I might be the oldest candidate in the whole election, but it is not how old you are but how old you feel. I speak to everyone in Norton, always have, and always will. The wife always says I can't leave the house without getting into a conversation, and now I've been voted in.
"I want more police in Norton, and I will always campaign for better treatment of animals, I've just found out my dog was pregnant last week."
Cat Eccles was besieged by well wishers after winning Wollescote and Stourbridge Town.
She said: "I campaign all year round not just election time, I've had some successful campaigns and people have remembered. I've lost a few times before so it feels great to finally win. So many people have helped me during the campaign, my posters were everywhere."
Liberal Democrat Ryan Priest who polled over 900 votes in Cradley, his party's best result believes his team's hard work is paying off.
He said: "We have done really well, we even beat the Conservatives into third place in Cradley, we also proved without doubt we are the third party in Dudley.
"We will be back next year, and we will win."
However, Conservative leader Patrick Harley, who retained his own seat of Kingswinford South which means he will clock up 20 years representing the ward in 2024, was bullish about his party's performance.
He said: "I am really pleased to have retained by seat and humbled to almost get 60 per cent of the vote.
"We have done well as a party here tonight, especially when you look at the national picture. And, coming out roughly where we started is a testament to the hard work of all our councillors and supporters.
"We were getting bashed in the media and have been in office for a long time so Labour should be winning seats like Belle Vale, Amblecote, Halesowen South and Wordsley. We are also snapping at the heels at their so called safe seats."
He added: "My priority now is to deliver an ambitious regeneration plan for the borough which will really benefit places like Stourbridge, Brierley Hill and Dudley town centre."
Turnout was down across the board compared to last year. The highest turnout was in Wollaston and Stourbridge Town ward at 40.24 per cent and the lowest was Quarry Bank and Dudley Wood with 22.52 per cent, down from 26.08 per cent last year.
Many voters either spoiled their ballot or voted for too many candidates, the most popular phrase written on the ballots was "**** Boris".
However, Dudley North Conservative MP Marco Longhi believes the Prime Minister still remains an asset on the doorstep.
He said: "We should be getting hammered but we are not, and that has to be worrying for Labour. Boris is still popular with voters, in fact what I kept on hearing is they just want us to get on with the job."