LABOUR stormed to victory in Hartlepool’s council elections winning 11 out of the 16 seats up for grabs.
Party leaders hailed it a “very good night” that saw them gaining seats in five wards.
Labour now hold 29 seats, up from 24, on Hartlepool Borough Council to further strengthen their position within the council chamber.
The party gained seats in the Brus, Dyke House, Foggy Furze, Hart and Owton wards as 31 per cent of voters turned out to vote.
The biggest losers of the night were the Liberal Democrats who lost three seats, which were Foggy Furze, Owton and Hart, and they now have just two councillors representing the party in the chamber.
Labour’s remaining two gains came from independent councillors Michelle Plant and Reuben Atkinson, from Brus and Dyke House wards respectively.
Meanwhile, the Conservative group successfully defended their Park ward seat.
Counting started at around 10.30pm last night once all of the votes had been sorted and verified by an army of staff inside the Mill House Leisure Centre, in Raby Road.
Leader of the Hartlepool Labour group, Councillor Chris Simmons, who was re-elected in the Grange ward, said: “This is a very good night for the Labour group.
“Twenty-nine councillors gives us a position of some influence and we will be working very hard to minimise the impact of this Tory-led coalition government on people in the town.
“Clearly people are struggling with rising prices, rising VAT and rising fuel prices and a lot of people are now looking for work who weren’t before.”
There were loud cheers among the 80-strong crowd as the successful Labour candidates were announced at 1.30am today.
Coun Simmons also said he hopes the stronger Labour group will be able to put more pressure on Hartlepool Mayor Stuart Drummond and his cabinet to have more say in decision making.
Hartlepool’s Labour MP Iain Wright added: “It has been a fantastic night for Labour in Hartlepool.
“To gain five seats has exceeded our expectations and that is down to local and national factors.
“It reflects the strong Labour representation in town and the collapse of the Liberal Democrat vote reflects how disillusioned people have become with the Government.”
Councillor Arthur Preece, leader of the Liberal Democrat group, said: “It is difficult defending local government seats at the same time as having to defend our role nationally.
“The national picture has had a major part to play.
“A lot of the financial decisions have been unpopular, but the situation we inherited was so bad that action had to be taken urgently.”
Conservative councillor Ray Wells said: “The Conservative group is delighted with the result and becoming the new second party in the town.
“We were delighted to not only keep the seat we have in the Park ward, but to increase our percentage majority.”
The Elwick ward was the only one in town that was not up for election.