LABOUR'S collapse in St Albans mirrored the national picture following the local elections last night.

The Liberal Democrats gained one seat to take win the council which had previously had no party in overall control.

A third of the council's 58 seats were up for grabs and the results mean that the Lib Dems now have control of 30.

The Tories gained three to rise to 22 seats leaving Labour with just five seats and one independent.

Liberal Democrat leader Robert Donald said: "I'm very pleased. Now we have the majority we will now be able to start implementing our manifesto which we have not been able to do before because we have been tied.

"We are also pleased about Sopwell and Verulam because the wins there show we can take seats from both the Conservatives and the Labour parties.

"I'm particularly pleased about winning Batchwood because the Liberal Democrats have not won a district seat there since the 1980s."

The highest turn-out was in Wheathampstead where Conservative candidate Gillian Clark stole a seat from the Liberal Democrats winning with more than 50 per cent of the vote.

Similarly there was another large attendance in the Verulam ward where the Liberal Democrat candidate Fred Wartenberg was elected and took a seat from the Tories.

The Sopwell vote was recounted three times and was almost too close to call with the eventual Lib Dem winner Roger Axworthy claiming 711 votes and the Labour runner-up, Janet Smith, falling just short with 707 votes.

Independent candidate Tony Swendell celebrated relection in the Redbourn ward.

Overall the election turnout saw a fall with 42.5 per cent of the electorate hitting the polling stations compared to 43.6 per cent last year.

It was a good night both nationally and locally for the Tories who gained more seats than the Lib Dems in the district winning seats in Harpenden East, Wheathampstead and London Colney.

Chairman of the Tories Mary Murphy said: "Whilst the Lib Dems have made an overall gain, we have increased by 17 per cent in terms of votes cast. It has put us in pole position to take three wards next time around.

"We are all ages, all ethnicities and both genders. We present a really good modern view of Conservatives as we should be today and that is really wonderful.

"We take enormous heart from this, it shows the Conservative message is hitting home with the voters. We are moving people in large numbers towards us.

"We are never going to take the council all in one go but watch out next time."

On a national level the Labour Party suffered heavy losses which was consistent with the votes cast in St Albans and Harpenden where the party did not win a single seat in the district and only took 12.6 per cent of the overall vote.

District council Labour leader Roma Mills was, however, philosophical about the loss of confidence from the electorate. She said: "It has been a blow for us.

"This election has not been about what we do locally, it is about the publics' view of central Government and a wish to protest against national policies and that is something we cannot control."