CONSERVATIVE candidate Toby Hewitt has taken the Hulton ward council seat in the by-election.

The seat was previously held by Labour councillor Darren Whitehead, who died suddenly in November, prompting the by-election.

Cllr Hewitt was elected with a 276 vote majority, ahead of his Labour rival Rabiya Jiva.

The results were as follows:

UKIP - Bev Fletcher, 190

Liberal Democrat - Derek Gradwell, 67

Conservative - Toby Hewitt, 1,455

Labour - Rabiya Jiva, 1,179

Green - James Tomkinson, 52

The turnout was 29.68 per cent and six ballot papers were spoiled.

Hulton ward now has two Conservative councillors and one Labour councillor. 

After the results were announced by returning officer and assistant chief executive Margaret Asquith, Cllr Hewitt thanked his supporters and fellow Conservatives who had helped him campaign, saying it had been 'good fun'. 

Cllr Hewitt said: "It's been such a positive effort from the team, they have been so energetic and their energy has rubbed off on me.

"It's been good fun and now comes the responsibility. 

"I must have walked up and down the length of the ward and people have raised issues of fly tipping, crime, congestion and house building. 

"Those pressures are there and they are there to be tackled."

Conservative MP for Bolton West, Chris Green was at the count in Bolton Town Hall to support Mr Hewitt. 

He said: "I was delighted to see the result but Toby has worked incredibly hard and the commitment he's offering will stand him in good stead. 

"When people thought about it they clearly wanted someone who will stand up for the issues that matter."

Labour candidate Rabiya Jiva said she was disappointed with the result.

She said: "It was a good response and I will be back in May to take on Diane (Parkinson)."

"It was a good shot and well done to everyone who put the work in. I can appreciate the bad weather and the cold and the time of year. It's unpleasant. But people should know if they need anything I'm there for them."

Cllr Parkinson is the other Conservative representing Hulton ward since she defected from UKIP. 

Mrs Jiva was supported by Bolton South East's Labour MP, Yasmin Qureshi. 

Both women blamed the poor weather for the Labour defeat. 

Ms Qureshi said: "Obviously I'm very disappointed. We had a very good candidate who lives in Hulton with her children and family and she ran a fantastic campaign.

"However, the results are what they are. Congratulations to Toby, the member from Tyldesley."

Cllr Hewitt said he had fielded questions from voters while campaigning about living in Tyldesley.

He said: "I've spoken to hundreds of people and predominantly what they said was, 'where are you from?' and when I say 'Tyldesley', they say, 'oh you are local'. 

"People are all right with it and that was their choice."

Cllr Hewitt joined the Conservative party in 2014 and has previously run unsuccessfully as a candidate in Atherton. 

Cllr David Greenhalgh, leader of the Conservative group on Bolton Council, said: "It's a tremendous result, we thought it would be close and we know that both main parties were working incredibly hard and given the weather and the fact it was a by-election in January, the turn out both parties have managed is pretty phenomenal.

"I have to pay tribute to Toby who has worked his guts out.

"The people of Hulton will grow to love this man. He will reach out and he will be big for those people who didn't support him and he'll be active in all parts. 

"He really is a special character."

A number of people present in the room, from Labour, Conservative and UKIP parties felt there had been a collapse of the UKIP vote in favour of the Tories. 

In 2015, when Cllr Darren Whitehead was elected with 1,374 votes, UKIP commanded 909 votes and the Conservatives, 1,214. 

The turnout then was 38.42 per cent. 

Cllr Sean Hornby, the UKIP group leader on the council acknowledged the lack of UKIP voters. He put this down to a number of factors including the party's ongoing leadership troubles. 

Cllr Hornby said: "We came third like last time and the consolation is the Liberals got two per cent of the vote.

"Our vote went to the Conservatives and it wasn't a good night for us.

Cllr Hornby praised candidate Ms Fletcher, who was not present on the night. Liberal Democrat candidate Derek Gradwell was also absent.

Cllr Hornby warned that the ruling Labour group was being sent a message by the voters. He said: "They are in control of the council and despite the change of leader they are not out of the woods yet.

"The people of Bolton haven't forgotten the issues of last year."