THE Tories strengthened their hold on Welwyn Hatfield with a resounding result at the polls, ousting Labour in two seats.

The Conservative administration kept control, increasing their majority from 31 to 32, but lost one seat, Handside, to the Liberal Democrats. Councillor Nigel Quinton polled 1,127 votes to Conservative Sue Collins' 1103 in the ward, previously held by council chairman Carl Storer, who was victorious in Welwyn South.

But an even closer call was Peartree ward, where incumbent Labour candidate Jacqui Russell received just six more votes than Lib Dem Frank Marsh, prompting four recounts before the victory was declared. Councillors expressed their dismay at the low turnout of voters in Peartree just 27.3 per cent, down from 30.4 per cent in 2004.

The highest turnout was in Haldens ward where just over 75 per cent of the electorate voted. The seat, previously held by Labour's Paul Orrett, who stepped down last month, was won by Conservative Martyn Levitt, who was not at the count to celebrate his victory.

Labour's other loss came in came in Howlands, where Alan Chesterman lost out to 23-year-old Conservative Warren Davies. Speaking after his victory, Mr Davies said: "I've been out every day for the last five weeks, I've knocked on every door and spoken to absolutely everybody about the issues that worry them and I've responded to what they've asked me to do.

"I've worked incredibly hard but I couldn't have done it without everybody's help."

The other young candidate celebrating victory was 22-year-old Nicola Dorrington, whose success in Hatfield East saw her poll more votes than the Liberal Democrat and Labour candidates put together. Ms Dorrington said she hoped her age would mean she could take a "fresh look" at the issues affecting the ward, adding: "Now that we've got two young councillors in place it will hopefully bring some enthusiasm back into the council."

Speaking after all the results were announced, Conservative leader John Dean, who retained his Brookmans Park and Little Heath seat, said: "I'm absolutely delighted, obviously the electorate showed that they are very happy with the way the administration has been carried out over the last year or so.

"I was really pleased for our two new young councillors, it's really nice to have them on board and I know they're looking forward to working with the residents of Welwyn Hatfield.

"We'll be continuing to work in partnership with the community and fulfilling our five promises that we set out. If we can keep doing that I think Welwyn Hatfield will be a very good place to be."

The Conservative majority on the council now stands at 16. Labour has 14 seats, the Lib Dems have three and the Green Party has one.

The results of Thursday night's district council election for Welwyn Hatfield were as follows:

Brookmans Park and Little Heath Jennifer Mabel Blumsom Liberal Democrat 286 John William Dean Conservative 1630 Margaret Helen White Labour 111

Haldens Bhavna Joshi Labour 520 Martyn John Levitt Conservative 641 Eirwen (Win) Bertha Smith Liberal Democrat 377

Handside Sarah Carthew Labour 273 Susan (Sue) Elizabeth Collins Conservative 1103 Nigel Alan Quinton Liberal Democrat 1127

Hatfield Central Douglas Mark Berry Conservative 425 Colin George Croft Labour 521 Lis Meyland-Smith Liberal Democrat 322

Hatfield East Roger Cashmore Liberal Democrat 324 Nicola Susan Dorrington Conservative 826 Constance Elliott Labour 357

Hatfield North Clare Louise Berry Conservative 1081 Richard Hedley Griffiths Liberal Democrat 345 Anthony Ronal Wilder Labour 535

Hatfield West Dean Charles Archer Labour 531 Simon John Archer Liberal Democrat 235 Nicholas Ian Atkinson Conservative 757

Hollybush Stephen Robert Battaglia Conservative 521 Margarita Sophia Birleson Labour 617 Hazel Mary Jacquemain Liberal Democrat 239

Howlands Jonathan Robert Sanders Arch Liberal Democrat 167 Alan Chesterman Labour 634 Warren Byron Davies Conservative 821 Mark Jonathan Knight Green 174

Northaw Nigel Anthony Van Someren Bain Liberal Democrat 203 Alex Breed Labour 111 John Michael Nicholls Conservative 1455

Panshanger Sara Louise Clare Johnston Conservative 904 William James Longbottom Labour 409 Marcel Edward Naseby Liberal Democrat 279

Peartree Frank Annibale Stefano Marsh Liberal Democrat 447 Bernard Rosewall Conservative 341 Jacqueline Russell Labour 453

Sherrards Margaret Sara Hurst Labour 571 Marietta Louise (known as Louise) Lotz Liberal Democrat 346 Christine Ann Wheeler Conservative 1100

Welham Green Sheila Jean Archer Liberal Democrat 156 Bridgit Tereasa Croft Labour 198 Peter Ronald O'Brien Conservative 707

Welwyn North Helen Susan Bassett Liberal Democrat 241 Anthony John Crump Labour 138 Steven Markiewicz Conservative 987

Welwyn South 2 seats John Edward Blackburn Liberal Democrat 408 Sheila Beryl Jones Labour 191 Amanda (Mandy) Louise Perkins Conservative 1183 Ian Frederick Skidmore Liberal Democrat 396 Carl Jamie Storer Conservative 1135 Sheila Wilder Labour 174

In the by election taking place for the West of Hatfield Town Council, the results were as follows:

Dean Charles Archer Labour 558 Simon John Archer Liberal Democrats 241 Warren Byron Davies Conservative 714