Election results: Tory councillors distance themselves from PM

Prime Minister Theresa May leaves after casting her vote at a polling station near her home in the Thames Valley as voters headed to the polls for council and mayoral elections across England and Northern Ireland.

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Conservative councillors tried to distance themselves from Theresa May and the government

Conservative councillors have criticised Theresa May after losing hundreds of seats in the local elections.

A council leader who lost his majority said the prime minister should “consider her position” and others said they made gains “despite” the government.

The Conservatives and Labour faced a backlash over Brexit, with smaller parties and independents taking seats.

Counting of votes continues on Friday.

Elections for more than 8,400 seats on 248 councils took place amid widespread criticism of MPs and the government over the handling of Brexit.

The Conservatives, who were defending council seats they won in 2015 alongside the party’s general election victory, were at pains to stress the vote was about local services and council tax rather than what was happening at Westminster.

However by Friday morning they had lost out mainly to the Liberal Democrats and independents on councils such as Cotswold, Winchester and North Kesteven.

Labour have also been losing seats including in strongholds like Bolsover, where they lost their majority amid a surge in support for independents.

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Tony Berry wants Theresa May to consider her position after losing control of Cotswold District Council

The Tories lost Cotswold District Council after 16 years with the Liberal Democrats now in charge.

Conservative group leader Tony Berry said it was a “very unusual set of circumstances”.

He blamed Brexit and “professional politicians who are basically working for themselves rather than necessarily what is best for the country”.

Asked his message to Theresa May, he said: “I would ask her to consider her position very carefully.”

Key developments:

In Bath and North East Somerset, where the Liberal Democrats won control, Tory casualties included the council leader Tim Warren.

Mr Warren said councillors had been “given a kicking for something that wasn’t our fault”.

Asked whether there needed to be changes in leadership or policies at the top of the Conservative Party, Mr Warren replied: “There needs to be a change in action.”

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Mike Bird said the Conservatives won control at Walsall “despite” the government

In Walsall the Conservatives took control of the council after winning seats from Labour, having run the authority for a year without a majority.

Council leader Mike Bird said the Tories won “despite” the Conservative government and Theresa May.

“She hasn’t helped us make any gains at all – far from it – we made the gains despite the prime minister.”

In North East Lincolnshire, another Tory gain, group leader Philip Jackson said the party “managed to disengage national politics from what was happening locally”.

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