SHOCKWAVES ripped through Bolton Council as the impact of UKIP votes was felt by all the major political parties.
In the run-up to the local election count — in which a third of the council’s seats were contested last night — no-one, including UKIP, could predict how far "Farage fever" would spread in Bolton.
The reality has sent a clear signal to town hall leaders that the status quo has been threatened by this infant party.
Labour still have overall control of Bolton with 40 councillors, against the Conservatives' 15, the Liberal Democrats' three councillors and UKIP’s two.
Although it is the first local election in which Bolton UKIP has fielded any candidates — they have only previously contested Horwich by-elections — they took a seat off both Labour and the Conservatives - and UKIP finished second in 13 seats.
The loss of Little Lever and veteran councillor Maureen Connell to UKIP was a big blow for the Labour leadership.
And Labour narrowly escaped defeat in Kearsley — where the difference between winner Derek Burrows for Labour and Mark Cunningham for UKIP was just 43 votes.
Leader of Bolton Council, Cllr Cliff Morris, said the count was a “mixed bag”, as he celebrated the hard work of his party in retaining strong majorities in Great Lever, Halliwell, Rumworth and Harper Green.
Cabinet members Sufrana Bashir-Ismail in Crompton, Cllr Burrows in Kearsley, Kevin McKeon in Horwich North East and Akhtar Zaman in Halliwell were all re-elected.
Cllr Morris said: “We’re sorry to have lost Maureen — she was an excellent councillor who worked very hard.
“No doubt she will stand again and regain her seat.
“With UKIP I think the bubble will burst. They are a far right political party, and people will see them for what they are soon enough.
“They won’t serve their communities in the way we have been doing and will continue to do.”
Deputy council leader, Cllr Linda Thomas, described UKIP as a “phenomenon”.
She added: “I’m really disappointed to have lost Little Lever.
“Maureen is a very long-standing and valuable councillor who did a lot for Little Lever.
“It will be very interesting to hear UKIP’s views and plans for Bolton, which we will be examining very thoroughly.”
Mrs Connell said she was upset to have lost her seat, adding: “I was sorry that in Little Lever a lot of people gave me a lot of support and it’s really disappointing for them.
“There are two very good Labour councillors in Little Lever and I’m sure they will look after the interests of the residents.”
Cllr Nick Peel, the council's cabinet member for environmental services, kept hold of his position in Tonge with the Haulgh with 1,399 votes, despite a strong upsurge from Derek Fisher for UKIP, who took 1,053.
Cllr Peel has issued a warning to the Labour party nationally to debate immigration — or risk losing more seats across the country.
He said: “We knew there was a significant UKIP challenge, and the Labour party nationally needs to have a long hard look at this.
“We are not addressing the issues that Labour voters want us to address, and we mustn’t shy away from a debate about immigration.
“Otherwise it’s the foot soldiers who will suffer.”
The Conservatives also suffered a big loss after deputy leader Andy Morgan lost his seat in Hulton.
In 2010, he won with a 945 majority, but last night came second behind UKIP, who secured 1,291 votes against his 1,150 – only 10 more than Labour candidate Shafaqat Shaikh.
He said: “Obviously I’m devastated I lost my seat, but that’s the democratic process and the people have chosen.
“I hope my successor works for the interests of everyone in Hulton, and I will hopefully come back and represent the Tories in Bolton.
“In the meantime I will carry on campaigning on health issues, representing the elderly and the hospice, and contributing to Bolton in those ways.”
Cllr David Greenhalgh, who was re-elected in Bromley Cross with the biggest majority of the night, said the Conservatives had experienced mixed fortunes.
He added: “It is terrible we have lost Andrew - he has been a great councillor who has moved the party forward.
“There is no room for complacency — people have told us this year that they want to send a message, and they are clearly speaking for disenchanted residents.”
Cllr Martyn Cox said he was thrilled to have broken the curse of the Westhoughton North and Chew Moor ward.
He won with 1,424 votes, with Anne Graham for Labour coming in second with 1,278 and UKIP Bolton chairman Joan Johnson taking third place with 984.
Cllr Cox said: “I’m really pleased to have won. It’s a great ward, it’s really competitive and generally fought in a good spirit.
“It was a wake-up call to every councillor in the borough that the electorate lend their vote – they don’t give it.
“If UKIP did one good thing they showed the council is not a club, that anyone can stand and if they get enough votes they win, and that’s fair.”
Cllr John Walsh, former leader of the Conservatives, held on to his seat in Astley Bridge with 1,481 votes against Labour’s 1,279 and UKIP’s 1,039.
He said: “To be re-elected and now in my 40th year as a councillor is wonderful, and I’m still as enthusiastic as ever.”
Meanwhile the Liberal Democrats managed to stave off attempts by Labour to snatch a seat in their stronghold of Smithills, with 22-year-old Cambridge University law graduate Andrew Martin securing a place for the party after Anthony Radlett stepped down.
He said: “It’s amazing. We had no idea how we would do.
“As the youngest councillor I think I have a duty to get more young people involved in politics, and out to vote.”
During the count Glen Atkinson for Labour was announced as the new councillor in Claypool for Horwich town council.