Bolton’s ruling Labour group has been hit by a “backlash” after a tense overnight count at this year’s local elections.

The Labour Group, which has run Bolton Council as a minority administration since last year’s all-out elections, lost two seats overall in yesterday’s election, reducing it to 26 seats.

In a conflicted picture that emerged from an all-night count held at Bolton Arena, the ruling group made unexpected gains in some areas only to lose heavily in others.

Labour leader Cllr Nick Peel said: “We've made historic gains in Bradshaw from the Tories, we've taken Hulton from an independent and we've taken Westhoughton South from the Liberal Democrats.

"However as a direct result of the ongoing humanitarian crisis in Palestine many South Asian voters have not supported Labour or the Conservatives."

The Bolton News: Counting took place into the early hoursCounting took place into the early hours (Image: Newsquest)

Cllr Peel said that he had led calls for a ceasefire but that local councils ultimately had little ability to influence matters like these beyond its borders.

He said that the council would continue to tackle “all forms of discrimination” but accepted that people had expressed “real anger” over the Gaza issue.

Cllr Peel said: "Getting a backlash as a result of the Gaza crisis was not wholly unexpected.

"I would like to pay tribute to the councillors that we lost, Kate Taylor, Kevin Morris, Champak Mistry, Melanie Livesey and say that you can be the best councillor for your area and still feel the backlash from issues in other corners of the world."

The Bolton News: Bolton Council leader Cllr Nick PeelBolton Council leader Cllr Nick Peel (Image: Newsquest)

Just over a third of the council’s 60 wards were in play on Thursday’s election with elections held across 21 seats.

Labour started the night with 28 seats to the opposition Conservatives group’s 15.

The Liberal Democrats had held six seats, with the Horwich and Blackrod First Independents also on six, Farnworth and Kearsley First on two and with one independent.

But the time the night ended, there was still no single party with enough seats to command an overall majority by themselves.

The Bolton News: Results flooded in through the nightResults flooded in through the night (Image: Newsquest)

Despite losing in Bradshaw, previously held by Mudasir Dean who had stepped down at this election the Conservatives ended the night with 15 seats.

Conservative leader Cllr Martyn Cox said that given Labour’s soaring lead in national opinion polls, this reflected a lack of confidence in the council’s leadership locally.

He also said that anger over the Gaza conflict did not account for Labour’s losses in areas like Kearsley and Farnworth South.

Cllr Cox said: "The story of tonight was that the Labour Party were going to win a majority, they're sailing high in the polls, they're expected to win a general election.

"They came here expecting to make gains and they've fallen backwards."

He added: "This was going to be a tough night for the Conservatives, but the team have pulled together and really put their shoulders to the wheel."

But Labour’s losses came not at the expense of Conservatives but to independents like Ayyub Chota Patel in Rumworth who dedicated his win to support for a ceasefire in Gaza.

As he took to the podium, the newly elected Cllr Patel said: “This is a win for Palestine.

"We the people of Rumworth have shown that they believe in a ceasefire."

Labour incumbent Kevin Morris also lost Halliwell to the Green Party’s Hanif Alli, who again cited the conflict in Gaza as a key issue.

This marked the first time that any Green Party candidate has ever been elected to Bolton Council.

Elsewhere, Labour lost in both Farnworth South and Kearsley to Farnworth and Kearsley First.

Party leader Cllr Paul Sanders said: "I think it's proof that localism is absolutely what people want in Kearsley, I would say people don't want Labour.

"Again, in Farnworth South we've shown that there's still that there's still that appetite for localism and in Farnworth North we're really proud of those 700 votes and we'll be coming for that seat in 2026."

Farnworth North went to Labour’s Sue Haworth who paid tribute to her campaigning team and said she hoped to encourage more women to go into politics.

The Horwich and Blackrod First Independents scored similar successes, winning every available seat in the two towns and adding Charlotte Sears to their councillors.

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Speaking before the count, Cllr Ryan Bamforth, of Horwich North, said that he believed his party’s ability to stay removed from national politics has proven to be attractive to voters.

He said: "That's really helped us avoid getting swept up it that wave."

One of the most noteworthy results of the count came in the early hours of the morning when Conservative Toby Hewitt took Astley Bridge from Labour’s Kate Taylor by a single vote.

The Bolton News understands this was announced after several recounts.

The Bolton News: Cllr Toby Hewitt and Chris Green MP

Leaving the hall in the early hours of the morning, Cllr Hewitt’s Astley Bridge Conservative colleague Cllr John Walsh observed how close the poll had been.

He said: "Every vote counts, what more could one ask for?"

Talks are expected to get underway to form the council's new administration in the coming days.