Hartlepool’s UKIP leader described the election of their sixth councillor as a “hammer blow” to Labour.
Former town fireman Tim Fleming won the Headland & Harbour ward by election previously held by Labour’s Peter Jackson who stood down due to work commitments.
UKIP interim leader Nigel Farage tweeted after the victory: “Big win in Hartlepool with UKIP gaining a seat from Labour. UKIP taking on Labour in their heartlands.”
But Labour councillor Kevin Cranney said the result and low turnout of just 17.8%, reflected the public’s dissatisfaction with politicians generally rather than Labour specifically.
UKIP Hartlepool chairman Councillor John Tenant said: “Obviously, we’re extremely happy with getting almost 50% of the vote.
“It is quite a hammer blow for Labour in what was traditionally a strong Labour area.
It is quite a hammer blow for Labour in what was traditionally a strong Labour areaCouncillor John Tennant, Hartlepool UKIP chair
“Quite honestly, we have not had the best week as a party but it doesn’t seem to have affected our local campaign in any way.”
Coun Fleming’s election comes on the back of a surge of support for UKIP in Hartlepool in recent years.
In May, the party secured three new councillors making it the second largest political party on the council.
And in the 2015 general election, UKIP candidate Phillip Broughton pushed Iain Wright close polling 11,052 votes and saw its share of the vote quadruple to 28%.
But nationally, the party has been dogged by in-fighting, has seen its new leader Diane James stand down after just 18 days and commentators question the future of the party following Brexit.
And leadership contender Steven Woolfe ended up in hospital after an altercation in the European Parliament in Strasbourg with UKIP MEP Mike Hookem.
Coun Tennant added: “I think what this result shows is people have made the switch and they are sticking with UKIP.
“We don’t campaign on national issues, we talk about the fact we want to represent local people.”
Coun Christopher Akers-Belcher, Labour Group leader on the council was not available for comment.
Deputy leader Coun Kevin Cranney said of the result: “I think the turnout speaks for itself. I don’t think it’s a reflection on the town as a whole and the Labour party.
“If you look at what Labour has done in the past three years with the regeneration schemes taking place and investment which has been phenomenal.”
Coun Fleming’s 496 votes, were almost double that of the 255 votes received by Labour’s Trevor Rogan.
Steve Latimer, of Putting Hartlepool First got 155 and Benjamin Marshall (Local Conservatives) received 41 votes. John Robert Price (Patients not profit in our NHS) got 36 votes and Chris Broadbent (Independent) received 26 votes.