CONSERVATIVES tightened their grip on Welwyn Hatfield in Thursday's district council elections and the Lib Dems won their first seats there for 14 years.

The Tories were jubilant after seizing four Labour seats in Howlands, Sherrards, Hatfield West and Hatfield North.

Cabinet member Mandy Perkins said: "It is so good absolutely marvellous."

Council leader Russell Le Page said: "We have seen the Labour vote collapsing across the district.

"I hope we will have some constructive opposition from the Lib Dems for a change."

Mr Daniel Cooke for the Liberal Democrats knocked out Tory Lance Stanbury in Handside by 50 votes and his party colleague Hazel Laming won a Labour seat in Hatfield Central by 38.

A delighted Mr Cooke said: "We campaigned on local issues like maintenance of the garden city and the future of Stanborough Park."

Labour councillor Maureen Cooke, who is MP Melanie Johnson's secretary, said she had been expecting a poor result because the Government was in the middle of its term.

Mr Robert Ellingham for the UK Independence Party came second in the Tory stronghold of Northaw, where he won 418 votes, more than Labour and the Lib Dems combined.

Turnout at nearly 40 per cent was up sharply on last year, but the final result was delayed until after 4am on Friday, with tellers and party workers greeted by birdsong as they left the count at the Hatfield Leisure Centre in Travellers Lane.