Vicky Ford
Image caption MP Vicky Ford congratulates Conservative colleagues after they took control at Basildon Council

The Conservatives are celebrating after unseating the leader at one Essex council and toppling a Labour-UKIP alliance at another.

The Tories held Epping Forest, Rochford, Southend and Brentwood.

Labour kept Harlow while Colchester and Thurrock remained in no overall control.

Colchester Liberal Democrat leader Paul Smith lost his seat to the Conservatives, who also took Basildon from a Labour-UKIP alliance.

Vicky Ford, Chelmsford’s Conservative MP, said: “We are very, very pleased here in Basildon.”

Image caption Candidates and party agents await the outcome of the fourth recount for the Staple Tye seat in Harlow

Gavin Callaghan, the former labour leader of Basildon Council, said: “We have a long way to go to convince the public that Labour’s top team can be trusted.

“There is a perception in the Labour party that the manifesto we stood on last year is the answer to all our problems. It clearly isn’t.”

Gary Canham, of UKIP in Basildon, said: “We are still here, we still have five councillors. We have shrunk, but we are still there.”

Analysis: Charlotte Rose, BBC Essex Political Reporter

The question for Essex was always going be about where voters who had previously cast a ballot for UKIP would make their mark this time.

The last time these seats were fought was in 2014, at the same time as the European elections, when UKIP turned the political map purple across Essex.

The party defended 11 seats across the county. It lost all of them.

In most places Labour and the Conservatives gained fairly equally from their demise. In Basildon the Conservatives gained five seats to Labour’s three, and in doing so toppled the alliance which had run the council for the past year.

But in Thurrock Labour were the main beneficiaries of UKIP votes, even though the Conservatives remain the largest party. The Thurrock Independents – all former UKIP councillors – lost all but one of their seats. Ironically it was Tim Aker, the UKIP MEP for the East of England who kept his seat under the Thurrock Independent banner.

Colchester had never seen many UKIP votes and here it was instead the Liberal Democrats who found themselves squeezed, losing two seats to the Conservatives and one to Labour.

Although the Conservatives ended one seat short of winning an outright majority on Colchester Council, they did oust the council’s Lib Dem leader Paul Smith, who left the count before the results were announced.

Colchester Liberal Democrat Mark Corey said: “I think Paul would be very sad. I am very sad to have lost Paul. He has been a very good leader, a very honest man and a very generous guy and I think he has run the council very well.

“We have a number of options moving forward but we need to dwell on what has happened tonight.”

Elsewhere, UKIP MEP Tim Aker held on to his Thurrock council seat despite the Conservative challenge from the former pop star David Van Day while the Mayor of Thurrock, Tunde Ojetola, lost his seat.

The closest battle of the night was in the Harlow ward of Staple Tye, where Conservative Michael Hardware defeated his Labour rival by a single vote.

“It is probably one of the most stressful nights of my life,” said Mr Hardware, who was only declared the victor after four recounts. “The first count was me losing by two, then the recount was me winning by one, then a further two recounts with me winning by one.

“There was a big sigh of relief at any result, as I did not know we would actually make it through the night.”

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