The Conservatives will continue to run Staffordshire County Council for another four years following another landslide election victory.
Tory candidates landed 57 of the 62 council seats – advancing on the 50 seats they held going into polling day.
While a Labour win always seemed unlikely, the scale of the party’s defeat – which saw it reduced from 10 to just four councillors – will come as a bitter disappointment.
The victorious Conservatives cited both local and national political factors as reasons for their success, including Brexit, recent funding announcements and the success of the vaccine programme.
In a further sign of the collapse of the so-called ‘red wall’, the Tories won in all nine of Newcastle’s divisions, taking Labour’s three remaining seats in the district.
No seats changed hands in the Staffordshire Moorlands, with the Conservatives retaining six of the seven seats there.
In one of the few positive results for Labour group leader Charlotte Atkins retained her Leek South seat.
It was a similar story in Stafford, with the Conservatives holding onto their seven seats, and Gillian Pardesi retaining Stafford Central for Labour. Independent Jill Hood also held her Stone Urban seat.
Votes from across county were tallied up in separate counts in each of Staffordshire’s eight districts on Saturday, and while counting continued into the afternoon, the Tories overall victory was confirmed by midday.
A number of measures were put in place to ensure the counts were Covid-compliant, including perspex screens for counting staff, one-way systems within buildings and limits on the number of people allowed to attend.
Conservative council leader Alan White welcomed the election results. He said: “I thank everyone who stood as a candidate or worked to make this election happen in difficult circumstances.
“I am delighted that the people of Staffordshire have again placed their trust in us to continue delivering essential services in our communities.
“We will continue to create the conditions for economic growth in Staffordshire, attracting new employers and supporting new ones as we recover from the pandemic.
“At the same time, we will work with our communities to focus on their needs and support them to live happier, healthier, independent lives.”
This will be the fourth consecutive four-year term in charge of the county council for the Conservatives following election victories in 2009, 2013 and 2017.
John Henderson, chief executive of Staffordshire County Council, was the returning officer.
He said: “Staffordshire County Council’s annual budget is more than £500 million and our work touches everyone’s life in one way or another.
“It’s vital that local people debate local issues and determine how the county council goes about its business, so I was very pleased to see every seat contested by multiple candidates and I thank them all for their time, effort and commitment to the democratic process.”