THE Conservative party seized control of Welwyn Hatfield by taking three seats from Labour in district council elections on Thursday, May 3.

The Tories won an overall majority of four by toppling housing committee chair Lynn Chesterman in Sherrards and former council chairman Linda Mendez in Hatfield North, as well as taking retiring Labour member Bill Renwick's seat in Hatfield West.

Tory leader Russell Le Page, whose election as council leader at a full council meeting on May 20 will be a formality, said: "Tonight we have had a judgement on an inept and incompetent Labour administration.

"But in one year, it will be about us about how we will have delivered quality public services for the people of Welwyn Hatfield."

Welwyn parish councillor John Scarff converted the slender Labour majority of 17 in Sherrards into a Tory one of 107, and recently-elected Hatfield town councillor Nick Atkinson had a winning margin of 213 in Hatfield West, where Labour had 85 votes in hand at the last election two years ago.

In Hatfield North, where two seats were up for grabs, three recounts were needed before local Tory agent Bob Davidson, and Mrs Bridgit Croft for Labour, wife of environment committee chairman Colin Croft, were declared the winners, with four candidates within 17 votes of each other.

Turnout rose by around three per cent to about 35.5 per cent, boosted by a record number of postal votes, available to all voters for the first time.

Although the Liberal Democrats remain without representation on Welwyn Hatfield Council, they came second in four wards, and former parliamentary candidate Daniel Cooke forced a recount in Handside, where the winning Tory, Councillor Carl Storer, ended only 22 votes clear.