LABOUR suffered a devastating defeat at the local elections on Thursday. Local Democracy Reporter JOSEPH TIMAN explains what happens next.

NEGOTIATIONS have begun between parties as they try to find a way to work together and take control of the council.

No party currently controls Bolton Council following Thursday’s shock defeat for Labour.

The ruling group lost seven seats with more than half taken by hyper-local parties.

The Tories could now end up running Bolton Council for the first time in nearly 40 years despite only gaining one councillor on the night.

Both parties will now have to work with other groups in a coalition if they want to be in charge.

Newcomers Horwich and Blackrod First Independents snapped up two seats from Labour as did Farnworth and Kearsley First who now have five councillors.

These hyper-local parties, together with the Lib Dems and UKIP, will be the kingmakers as deals are discussed in the coming days.

Council leader Linda Thomas told The Bolton News that Labour would join forces with whoever wants to work to improve Bolton.

But she admitted that it may be hard to get new independent parties to work with them.

She said: “I’m not really sure what the independents stand for. I know what they’re against. And it’s whether they want to work with us. A lot of them have completely different philosophies. They just seem to be one thing – they seem to be opposed to a Labour council – and we have to accept that.”

But Cllr Thomas, who successfully defended her seat in Halliwell, said the Tories, who now have 20 councillors, did not have a “brilliant” result themselves.

Conservatives took Labour seats in Hulton and Breightmet, ousting Labour veteran John Byrne, but lost a councillor in Westhoughton to the Lib Dems.

Tory leader David Greenhalgh has started “serious” talks with other parties who he needs on side for him to become leader of the council. He said: “The message I’ll be saying is that there is an opportunity, if they want to grasp it, for some form of anti-Labour coalition agreement. I feel together, we can perhaps achieve something to benefit this town and take it in a different direction but it remains to be seen if something can be arrived at.”

Labour lost four councillors in townships where they pledged to invest in, including executive cabinet member David Chadwick in Westhoughton.

Council leader Linda Thomas warned that this investment might not be delivered if the Tories take control.

But Cllr Greenhalgh said money for townships would “absolutely” be safe under the Tories. He said: “Part of our pledge was for fair funding across the whole borough and I think it needs a whole look at because it’s absolutely important that the townships get their support but it’s also equally important that some of North Bolton that doesn’t have the town councils get some support.

“So I think there’s a lot of ground to be made here but definitely support for the townships. People feel disenfranchised from the way that things are run. They have a disconnect in this town from the way Labour has run it.”

Lib Dem leader Roger Hayes agreed that there is a general dissatisfaction with the Labour Party in Bolton.

His party won seats from both of the major parties in Westhoughton and another in Smithills. Cllr Hayes acknowledged the powerful part his group will play in negotiations between the parties, but did not state exactly what his group would want in return.

He said: “I think it’s very dangerous to talk about red lines as Theresa May has discovered. There are things we want and things that we may not. We’re prepared to talk and compromise and see what we can get.”

For the Conservatives to take control of the council, they will have no choice but to work with the Lib Dems.

However, Labour could reach a majority if the two hyper-local parties are prepared to work with them. Labour finished the elections with 23 seats out of possible 60, although Cllr Debbie Newall has now said that she will rejoin the party, adding another councillor to the group.

Newly-formed Horwich and Blackrod First Independents took two Labour seats, beating Stephen Pickup and Joyce Kellet.

There are now no Labour councillors in Farnworth and Kearsley and the hyper-local party represent every seat in Farnworth.

Paul Heslop won a whopping 2,376 votes in Kearsley and Lisa Weatherby beat Labour’s Jean Gillies in Farnworth.

Cllr Heslop said: “The fact is that we’ve removed the Labour Party from the wards of Farnworth and Kearsley for the first time in over 100 years. And that should be incredibly worrying for the Labour Party.”

Meanwhile, UKIP Leader Sean Hornby successfully defended his seat in Little Lever and Darcy Lever meaning his group is still three-councillors strong.

Labour could stay in power if they form a coalition with the Lib Dems and UKIP.