HARROGATE Council is now a hung authority following the results of this year's local elections which saw the Conservatives make two gains at the expense of the Liberal Democrats.
Voters went to the polls in 16 rural wards and the Conservatives took two seats from the Lib Dems – in Boroughbridge and in Ouseburn – to give them 27 seats on the Council. The Liberal Democrats now hold 21 seats, and the Independents – all Ripon district councillors – hold six.
The Labour Party fielded five candidates but failed to make any gains, as did the BNP who contested six seats.
In Boroughbridge, Mayor Robert Windass secured a seat for the Conservatives over the nearest rival Lib Dem Peter Phillips by a majority of 161 votes, while in the Ouseburn ward, Martin Leather gained the seat with a 742-vote majority over Clare McKenzie, who was selected by the Lib Dems when former ward councillor Chris Lewis stepped down.
The 48 per cent turnout across the rural wards was also the highest recorded in the Harrogate District in the past decade, not taking into account the 2004 election which was a postal-only vote and included a combined European Union ballot.
Leader of the Conservatives, Coun Mike Gardner said: "Overall the outcome of the district council elections was a good result for the Conservatives. It was disappointing not to have a clean sweep and take all 16 seats but the outcome was highly satisfactory."
Liberal Democrat leader Margaret-Ann de Courcey-Bayley said the loss of two seats to the Conservatives reflected voting trends across the country.
She said: "Given the national swing to the Conservatives we were not too disappointed with the results. We were very pleased with our performance in the Claro and Lower Nidderdale ward even though we did not win and we were delighted that Stan Beer retained Pateley Bridge ."