THE Conservatives seem likely to continue leading Bolton Council after they became the largest party after the local elections.

They won three more seats and lost one and now have 20 councillors of the borough’s 60.

Labour also gained a councillor and held on to the seven seats they were defending and now have a total of 19 councillors.

There were 21 seats fought for on Thursday in 20 wards across Bolton, with 99 candidates standing.

The results were announced after a lengthy counting process at the University of Bolton stadium with counting and verification starting at 9am and the last result announced after 6pm.

The council remains under no overall control.

Conservative leader David Greenhalgh, whose party runs the council by virtue of a working arrangement with smaller parties said he expected to have “constructive talks” in the next few days to try and form an administration.

Labour leader Nick Peel said although his party made a gain he would not be seeking to form an Labour-led administration at this time.

The Tories won two vacant seats in Westhoughton North and Astley Bridge as well as taking a seat off the Liberal Democrats in Breightmet. The party was also a winner in Little Lever and Darcy Lever, making a gain from UKIP.

Farnworth and Kearsley First gained a seat from the Conservatives in Kearsley with victor Tracy Wilkinson, so they now have five councillors.

Labour officially gained a councillor in Crompton, Rabiya Jiva displacing a Crompton Independent.

In Horwich and Blackrod, the Horwich and Blackrod First Independents took a seat previously held by an Independent and now have three councillors.

The Green Party, which had 18 candidates did not make any electoral breakthroughs and new party Bolton For Change, who fielded eight hopefuls also failed to score any victories.

Heaton and Lostock ward had the biggest percentage turnout at 46 per cent while the lowest was in Farnworth with 30 per cent.

Just 31 per cent of voters cast their ballots in both Tonge and the Haulgh and Halliwell.

The Liberal Democrats lost one councillor and now have five members, the same as Farnworth and Kearsley First.

Council leader Cllr David Greenhalgh said he was satisfied with the gains his party had made and said it endorsed the way Bolton Council was being run since his party took control in 2019.

He said: “We will be having discussions, with other parties, which I’m sure will be constructive in the next few days.

“I’m pleased we made gains today and look forward to continuing our work if given the opportunity.”

Labour leader Nick Peel, said: “We made a net gain of one councillor and successfully defended all our current seats today.

“I’m not saying we have bucked the national trend but we fought off challenges where the Tories had clearly targeted wards like Harper Green and Tonge and the Haulgh  to win through.

“I need to to go away and analyse which party won the popular vote but if it’s the Conservatives as I suspect then now is not the right time for us to consider trying to form a Labour led administration.”

Among councillors who did not seek re-election this were are ex-council leader Cliff Morris in Halliwell, Anna-Marie Watters in Westhoughton and Ann Cunliffe in Horwich and Blackrod.

Conservative cabinet members Hilary Fairclough, Toby Hewitt, Andy Morgan and Nadim Muslim all retained their seats.

Among the Labour victors was long-standing councillor Martin Donaghy and Farnworth and Kearsley First’s Paul Sanders also retained his seat.

Cllr Roger Hayes, the borough’s Liberal Democrat leader, also comfortably held his Smithills seat.

The council’s elections team counted 45,915 postal ballots overall, which was an increase of nine per cent from 2019, along with the tens of thousands of votes which were cast on Thursday at 147 polling stations in the 20 wards which make up the metropolitan borough of Bolton.