The Conservatives tightened their grip on the district council for a further four years in power, during the Arun District Council elections on Thursday, May 5.
The outcome of polling saw the Tories gain six seats to return 48 of the council’s 56 councillors in probably their biggest show of strength since it was formed in the mid-70s.
Their dominance has left the opposition councillors in single figures even when all three groups are combined.
The biggest losers on the night were the Lib Dems. They saw their status as the council’s main opposition almost lost as voters turned against the party.
They shed five seats while Labour was able to cling on to a same-again three, with one change of councillor.
Jim Brooks kept hold of his Bognor Regis Marine seat as the sole Independent.
Cllr Dr James Walsh, who celebrated an unprecedented tenth local election success in Littlehampton, called the result a kick in the teeth for democracy.
“It’s a sad, sad day for local councils when the outcome is entirely decided by the national share of the vote,” he said. “That’s sad for democracy in my view.”
The final result was declared past 8.30pm after the votes began to be looked at in counting hall in the Arun Leisure Centre 13 hours earlier.
The final result of the night was not announced until 9.05pm.
The vote took so long because many parishes and wards needed three counts – for the district council, parish and town councils and the referendum on the voting system. The combination of the voting also pushed the average turnover in the elections for Arun to what was probably a record high of 43.78 per cent.
Voters in the Arun decisively rejected using the alternative vote in parliamentary elections.
They voted more than three to one in favour of keeping the first past the post system.
The result was 37,536 against AV and 11,729 in favour of it. There were 324 spoilt papers.
Mr Sumnall announced the result at 7.45pm to a few cheers but it was otherwise received without any comment from those present.