Labour shook off a strong challenge from UKIP to retain slightly diminished control of Bolton council in the local elections.
Council leader Cliff Morris held on to his Halliwell seat with surprising ease, amassing 2042 votes out of the 3079 cast.
And despite losing two seats overall – with UKIP gaining full control of the Little Lever ward – Morris declared himself relatively pleased with the night’s work.
— Charlotte Johnstone (@By_Charl) May 5, 2016
“I’m sad we’ve lost three good councillors but we have won a seat,” he said.
“We’re still in control of the council and the people of Bolton have accepted us, and we’ve got a mandate to carry on in the path we’re going.
“Success would have been to have won them all – it’s a qualified success.
“We’ve done extremely well and we’ve kept control of the council with a good majority.”
UKIP’s Rees Gibbon completed full control of Little Lever with a margin of 474 votes, and Mark Cunningham stole Kearsley from Labour to complete a satisfying night for the party.
Mr Cunningham said: “It has been a very good night and we’re very grateful to everyone who took the time to go out and vote for us.
“People want a change – we’ve had a Labour-controlled council for the best part of 37 years, and people want someone who can stand up and speak for them, and UKIP can do that.
“We want to make changes for the better.
Just to recap – Labour retain comfortable majority, but very good night for UKIP. Lots putting it down to referendum buzz. #MMElection2016
— Ed Higgs (@EdNeilHiggs) May 6, 2016
“It bodes really well for the referendum, we’ll keep fingers crossed – let’s get back to being great again and let’s make a big change for this country.”
The referendum was a recurring theme during the night, with Morris claiming that many voters in Halliwell believed it was already the date to decide on the UK’s EU membership.
Elsewhere, the Conservative Party preserved its five seats that were up for grabs, with Christine Wild taking Westhoughton North and Chew Moor.
Mrs Wild said: “I’m extremely pleased, I didn’t expect it as it’s a swing ward.
“I would like to thank the voters for the confidence they have shown in me – I think I have a track record in getting things done, and people like that.”
The voter turnout was 35% – the same as in 2014, the last stand-alone council elections.