A SERIES of unexpected results in Bolton Council’s local elections resulted in a fairly unchanged picture for the make-up of the authority.

Labour remains comfortably the biggest party but suffered painful losses in Westhoughton North and Little Lever only to be buoyed by a shock victory in the Tory stronghold of Hulton.

The council started what turned out to be a dramatic day with 15 Labour seats up for grabs, while the Tories offered up six and the Liberal democrats just one.

The final result saw the Labour party one down on 14, the Conservatives and Liberals unmoved and UKIP adding one more seat to the two they picked up in last year’s local vote.

While those figures provide very little in terms of drama, the manner in which they were achieved came as a surprise to many of the gathered crowds at Bolton Arena with parties taking seats off one another in the most unexpected of fashions.

One of the major shocks of the day came in the Hulton ward, which has long been considered a Tory stronghold until UKIP’s Diane Parkinson ousted Conservative favourite Andy Morgan at last year’s local elections.

Tory incumbent Phil Ashcroft knew his seat was under threat, but it was widely assumed that the threat came in the shape of UKIP’s borough chair, Joan Johnson.

In fact it was Labour’s Shafaqat Shaikh who snuck in, scooping 2126 votes and knocking Mr Ashcroft into second place with 1961 and a devastated Mrs Johnson into third with 1818.

Speaking amid wild cheers from his party members, Cllr Shaikh, who has unsuccessfully attempted to get onto the authority on three occasions, said: “I am delighted — I am feeling over the moon.

“This is the fourth time I have stood and I have finally done it — its fourth time lucky.

“I was feeling positive going into this and It is very satisfying — it has taken a lot of hard work from all the people who have helped me who I want to thank.”

Conservative Phil Ashcroft, was magnanimous in defeat, he said: “I have absolutely loved every minute of being a Hulton councillor but the people have spoken.

“I would say that without a UKIP vote I would still be there, I did think if I was to lose the seat it would have been to them — but congratulations to Shaf and, as Arnold Schwarzenegger said, I’ll be back.”

UKIP chief Ms Johnson couldn’t hide her disappointment at finishing third, she said: “Devastated is the word, I wanted to win and I thought I might well win against the Conservatives — I’m convinced the general election has put the tone on the whole thing.”

Labour’s turn-up in Hulton was tempered by the loss of key seats in Westhoughton North and Chew Moor and Little Lever and Darcy Lever where the Conservatives and UKIP ran out winners respectively.

One familiar face returning to the council is former Tory deputy leader Andy Morgan who recovered from losing his Hulton seat to UKIP last year, with a comfortable win in Heaton and Lostock this time around.

He said: “I am honoured to be given a second chance and I think that having some time out will make me a better councillor and I am looking forward to holding the Labour executive to account once again.”

Reflecting on a curious day, senior Labour and Conservatives both admitted they had mixed feelings about the results.

Cllr Nick peel, Labour’s election co-ordinator said: “

We always thought that we were in with a chance with Hulton and to take it is a brilliant result.

We also thought we might lose both Westhoughton North seats, so in that respect it was much better than it could have been.

Referring to the UKIP victory in Little Lever, he added: “That is democracy, I would say to Labour voters who have given UKIP a try — the Labour party is here for you, we will not turn our backs on you.”

Conservative leader Cllr David Greenhalgh added: “I am delighted we have gained a seat in Westhoughton North but I am gutted that we couldn’t get two.

“I really do want to try and build the group up now and after all this work to still be on 15 seats is frustrating.”