SOUTH HOLLAND DISTRICT COUNCIL ELECTIONS 2019: Sighs for relief for ruling Conservative group after overall control is retained on nervous night
The Conservatives are still in overall control after a "damage limitation exercise" night at the polls.
A total of 24 Tories, four fewer than after the 2015 district council elections, will help make up the new chamber alongside 13 Independents.
Polling stations closed at 10pm on Thursday, with the first result declared nearly 75 minutes later when Gary Taylor held onto Spalding Castle ward.
Coun Taylor said: "I'm very pleased with the result after what has been a very energetic campaign.
"I've made an effort to communicate to the residents and voters, as have my opponents.
"But this result wasn't won over a few weeks, it was won over a few years of hard work and there is more work to do."
The first sign of nerves for the Conservatives came in Spalding Wygate ward where fears of a Spalding Western Relief Road (SWRR) protest vote failed to materialise.
Both Couns Roger Gambba-Jones and Christine Lawton were re-elected to serve the ward, despite unrest about the possible impacts of SWRR on both the north and south of Spalding.
Coun Lawton said: "It's been the most unusual election I've known, but I found that the harder your work, the luckier you get.
"We worked our socks off, everybody did, and obviously we worked our socks off that little bit more after the other candidates gave us a run for our money."
Coun Gambba-Jones said: "A particular group of residents (against SWRR) made their minds up and effectively avoided us.
"We weren't going to antagonise them as part of the campaign because they clearly made their statements to us, so there was no point in prodding them."
In Spalding St Mary's ward, two more Tories were voted back in, outgoing district council vice chairman Coun Harry Drury and council leader Coun Gary Porter.
Coun Drury said: "I'm really, really excited to be serving both the ward of St Mary's and, of course, the wider district of South Holland.
"One of the most important things, when you are elected as a councillor, is to look after the ward you're elected by and to remember that there is the rest of the district out there as well.
"South Holland isn't just Spalding, there are other towns and villages that also need to be looked after."
There will be an extra workload for new Crowland and Deeping St Nicholas district councillor Nigel Pepper who will combine his county councillor's duties with a role he previously held between 1999 and 2007.
Coun Pepper said: "One of the reasons I stood was because I am seen in Crowland, I'm quite visible there, and time after time, people say to me: 'You're the councillor, what are you going to do about this?'
"A lot of the things were at district level so now I can deal with them both and I'm now a one-stop councillor for the people of Crowland."
At the end of the night, Coun Porter said: "When we first started off on the campaign, we were looking at what the potential losses could have been.
"They were higher than they actually were tonight, although clearly it's always bad to lose really good councillors and we did that tonight.
"We've lost some fantastic councillors, more unfortunately for us as we've been working hard over the last 12 years to improve the demographic of our group.
"Tonight, most of the casualties were women councillors and that's a real shame because they were really good councillors.
"So the Conservative group has got some work to do now to try and make sure that we can rebuild for the future."