IT was a night which held few, if any surprises, as Labour strengthened its grip on Bolton Council, winning 14 of the 22 seats available.

The party took four seats from the Conservatives — Breightmet; Horwich and Blackrod; Little Lever and Darcy Lever; and Westhoughton and Chew Moor — and two from the ever-dwindling Lib Dems — Westhoughton South and Kearsley.

The only real tension on the night was in Smithills.

Liberal Democrat Cllr Roger Hayes hung on to his position on the council and his leadership of the party in Bolton by the skin of his teeth, winning by just 46 votes.

Council leader Cllr Cliff Morris won with ease in Halliwell and declared that the people of Bolton had spoken out against the Coalition.

He said: “It is a great night for us. It has exceeded expectations.

We have gained six seats, which means we now have 41.

“I think the reason we did so well is the Coalition Government, and it shows that we are there for the people.”

The Tories in Bolton were contending with their toughest year in the election cycle, defending 11 seats during the middle of a Conservative-led Government.

They were disappointed to lose four seats, but pointed to important wins in Bradshaw, where they held all three seats, as well as holding Astley Bridge and Hulton, where voting was tight.

Tory leader Cllr John Walsh said people had not switched their vote to Labour, but had stayed at home instead.

Following the count at Bolton Arena on Thursday night, he said: “We are disappointed to have lost in four wards. In Breightmet and Little Lever and Darcy Lever, we only had one seat remaining and they are not exactly our territory.

“We are very disappointed to have lost in Westhoughton and Chew Moor and that our new candidate in Horwich and Blackrod did not win. But the Labour vote fell, so it is hardly a ringing endorsement. It wasn’t that they took huge numbers of Conservative votes, rather that voters stayed at home.

“We held Astley Bridge and Hulton during the most difficult point in the electoral cycle and I was delighted that we won all three seats in Bradshaw.”

LibDem leader Cllr Roger Hayes said: “I am disappointed that we have lost some good councillors and it is purely down to national issues.”